Crash Victim Who Lost Wife, Two Children on Christmas Eve Seeks Mercy for Drunken Driver

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A man who portrayed Bob Cratchit in "A Christmas Carol" and then lost his wife and two children hours later in a Christmas Eve car crash asked for mercy Thursday for the drunken driver responsible.

Carlos Prieto was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, less than the 15-year maximum. But Gary Ceran told the judge he would be satisfied with no prison time.

"I want Carlos to know that I forgive him," said Ceran, fighting back tears along with Prieto, shackled a few feet behind him.

"If Carlos were to look me in the eye, shake my hand and say that he'll do all in his power to see that this will never happen again — that would be enough for us," Ceran said.

Prosecutors said Prieto, 25, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19, more than twice the legal limit, when his pickup truck broadsided the Ceran family's car in Murray after midnight Dec. 24. After Ceran performed as Cratchit during a play at Hale Center Theatre, he and his family attended a cast party and did some holiday shopping before the crash.

Cheryl Ceran, 47, Ian Ceran, 15, and Julianna Ceran, 7, were killed in the front seat. Gary Ceran and two other children survived in the back seat.

Almost immediately after the crash, Ceran said he had forgiven Prieto, who pleaded guilty to three counts of automobile homicide in April. Alcohol-related charges were dropped as part of the agreement.

At the court hearing Thursday, Ceran of Cedar Hills said he has been called naive by people who have vilified Prieto for being in the country illegally and driving while drunk.

"I and my children, who have been most injured by his actions both physically and emotionally, harbor no such feelings," said Ceran, a devout Mormon who quoted Bible passages about forgiveness.

Prosecutor Langdon Fisher said he couldn't recall ever arguing for a harsher sentence than the one sought by a victim. The prosecutor wanted three consecutive sentences of five years in prison.

"In this situation the state must look beyond the feelings only of the individuals who are most directly impacted by this event," Fisher told the judge. "Society has an interest in what is done beyond the feelings of the victims."

When it was his turn, Prieto spoke in broken English.

"First, I just want to thank this wonderful man who has forgiven me," he said. "I wish I could do something to heal the pain. To heal the heart. Not a time I don't think about it."

Prieto said he takes full responsibility for the crash and promised he would never drive drunk again. He said he hopes one day to take Ceran's hand, look in his eyes and apologize.

A written apology from Prieto was given to Ceran at the end of the hearing.

The crash wasn't the first time Ceran's family had experienced loss. Three other children, ranging from 3 weeks old to 14 months, died from tumors on their brain stem. Twins born prematurely also died within a day of their birth.