Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 News
A jury sentenced Walter Chidyausiku to 10 years in prison for drunken driving that led to the death of a 10-year-old boy.
A Tarrant County jury decided to send an Arlington driver who admitted to driving drunk and killing a 10-year-old boy to prison for 10 years.
Walter Chidyausiku pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault.
On Thursday, the jury handed down a 10-year sentence for the intoxication manslaughter charge and 3 years for the intoxication assault. The sentences will run concurrently.
Chidyausiku must serve half his sentence before he's eligible for parole. He has been in jail for the last 25 months.
Chidyausiku ran a stop sign in South Arlington on Sept. 1, 2011, and killed Tavian "TJ" Sabur. The 5th grader was on his way home to get ready for football practice. He and his mother, Tina Reese, were just three blocks from home when they were hit.
TJ died after being removed from the respirator a day after the crash.
The defense had hoped for probation, saying that Chidyausiku was a good man who made a mistake. Defense attorney Wes Ball, in comparing the obvious nature of a drunk person to the not as obvious intoxicated driver like his client, even mentioned the recent intoxication manslaughter case of former Dallas Cowboys player Josh Brent who was sentenced to 10-years probation in the crash that killed his friend and teammate Jerry Brown, Jr.
"We're asking you to consider probation," Ball told the jury. "We're asking you consider the whole thing and to factor in the kind of person Walter is."
The Tarrant County District Attorney's office pushed for a stronger sentence and got it. Assistant District Attorney Dawn Ferguson told the jury that this was their opportunity to tell the community that driving drunk is punished in Tarrant County and with prison time.
"The mere fact of thinking that you could slap this man on the wrist and give him probation or anything less than 10 years is absurd," Ferguson told jurors.
After the sentence was determined, Reese took to the stand to read her victim impact statement. She looked Chidyausiku in the eyes and read the nearly 10 minute long speech.
"How could you do this to my little boy and my family? What did I ever do to hurt you?" Reese asked him.
Reese said the crash was not an accident because Chidyausiku chose to drink and then drive to his babysitter's home to pick up is one-year-old son.
"To be honest it may have been easier if you'd killed me that day," Reese said. "Because on that day you chose to drink and drive you killed my little boy, my only son."
She detailed how the death of Sabur has impacted her daughter, Camille Cherry, and all the events Reese would miss out on his Sabur's taken life.
"The grief of watching him die in my arms and never be able to see him grow up will haunt me for the rest of my life," Reese said. "I pray the memory of killing my 10-year-old innocent son haunts you for the rest of your days."
Assistant District Attorney Dawn Ferguson said the family is ready to move on as best it can and the prosecutors are mostly pleased Chidyausiku got prison time.
"Obviously we knew this was a tough decision for the jury, but, you know, we're satisfied," Ferguson said. "Would have liked a little more (prison time), but I think this will be just for the family."
Prior to closing arguments, the defense put on three final witnesses to talk about how Chidyausiku is a good man who made a mistake. Chidyausiku's younger brother, fiancee and mother all testified and all asked for leniency.
"I am pleading with them to give this (probation) and lenience because bad things do happen to good people," Chidyausiku's mother, Linah, told the jury.
Walter Chidyausiku is originally from Zimbabwe. His fiancee, Chipo Marowah, testified that they were planning on getting married, but the wedding hasn't happened as Chidyausiku has been in the Tarrant County Jail since December 2011 awaiting trial.
Marowah has two children from a previous marriage. Chidyausiku had become like a father to them and cared for them while Marowah was at work. The couple had a son in September 2010.
She testified that on the afternoon of the crash she called Chidyausiku to make sure he picked up their son from the babysitter's home, who lived near the crash scene, because she needed to leave.