Drunk Driver Sentenced for Manslaughter

July 19, 2011 Updated Jul 19, 2011 at 6:52 PM EDT

By Jennifer Stanonis

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July 19, 2011 Updated Jul 19, 2011 at 6:52 PM EDT


BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) -- 21 year old Brigid Walsh was sentenced in court Tuesday morning. She didn't get the maximum sentence of 7 years in prison. Walsh receiving 6 months at the Erie County Holding Center for vehicular manslaughter and 4 months for a DWI charge, to run concurrently. She will serve that sentence on weekends, Friday evening until Sunday evening. Following that she will have 5 years of probation. Walsh will also lose her driver's licence for a year and will have to create and present programs to high school students about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Family members of the victim, Erika Hoerner, were not happy with the 6 month jail sentence. "Justice is one thing and the law is another so I guess what we saw... was the law," Steve Hoerner, the victim's uncle, said. "It's hard to fathom, taking someone's life and only getting a sentence of weekends in prison for a tragedy that will be with us for a lifetime... we simply asked for the maximum term of 7 years and we thought that was fair given a life was taken, a few people were injured. Obviously not."

It was just five months ago when Walsh crashed her car on the Kensington Expressway in Buffalo back in February. Her passenger, 18 year old Erika Hoerner, was thrown from the car and killed. She was the only one in the car not wearing a seat belt. Hoerner's blood alcohol level was point 2. Walsh, the driver, had a blood alcohol level of point 1-4.

Hoerner's family was at court wearing t-shirts in Erika's memory and passing out remembrance key chains to loved ones. Her mother Linda says she was hoping for a longer sentence but admits that no amount of time will ever bring her daughter back. "Got very little time...it's never enough," Linda Hoerner said.

In court, a tearful Walsh apologized for what she did. "I'm so sorry to the family...taken something that can never be replaced...the death of Erika will be with me the rest of my life...I learned a life long lesson," Walsh said in court. "It was suppose to be a good night, I should have never taken that stupid chance."

Walsh also said she takes full responsibility for making that fateful decision to drive drunk that night. "She was remorseful then, I don't know if she has been up until now," Steve Hoerner said. "I hope my sister {Linda} can gather herself in the next few years without her only daughter, to begin to enjoy life again as we once knew it."

Linda Hoerner and her brother Steve also spoke in court, stopping at times to weep, saying they want the maximum sentence for Walsh. Linda says while she is disappointed with the sentencing, at least Walsh will have some time to straighten out her life and do something with it. Linda left a picture in court for Walsh to use in her drinking and driving programs for high school students. The picture shows Erika on one side with the text "before" and on the other side of the picture, her urn with the text "after".

Walsh's sentence will start this weekend.

Erika's burial requests are to be placed at their local family cabin, a place she spent a lot of time at. That's expected to happen in August around her birthday. "It's a place we've had for 30 years and enjoyed it immensely and it's just not the same right now," Steve Hoerner said. "Her grandfather said maybe it's time to sell the cabin... it's difficult every day, it's torn our hearts out."

Even in the darkest moments of this case, some of the victim's family members told us there is an understanding that both sides are going through a tragedy right now. "God bless her and her family too...we realize they are going through hell on earth as well," Steve Hoerner said.