CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. – Almost 10 months have passed since the fatal accident that killed Chesterfield father Alonza Jefferson, who was driving home from his second job when a drunk driver struck him.
On Monday, Chesterfield judge T.J. Hauler sentenced Matthew Pernell, 27, to eight years total in prison. Pernell, who previously pleaded guilty, was given 20 years with 13 suspended for the aggravated involuntary manslaughter charge and five years with four suspended for the felony DUI charge.
The early-morning fatal crash killed 46-year-old Jefferson -- a father of two --just days after Christmas. Jefferson was on his way home to celebrate the birthday of his daughter Destini.
Pernell drove his pickup truck across the median along route 288 and hit Jefferson, who died at the scene.
Investigators said Pernell's blood alcohol level was almost three times the legal limit. He had more than a dozen traffic charges since 2008, including two previous DUI charges.
Monday was very emotional for both the Parnell and Jefferson families in the courtroom.
Pernell himself took the stand and made eye contact with the Jefferson family as he apologized.
"I don't deserve to be here," he said while crying. He promised if given the chance, that he would stay sober for the rest of his life. He also said that he would trade places with Jefferson if he could.
Both sides spent a lot of time talking about Pernell's alcoholism. He said he had been through several counseling and AA problems, but he relapsed.
Pernell's mother Nancy also took the stand and said her son had a "heart of gold" and that he had taken responsibility for his actions.
Destini Huffman-Jefferson, Alonza Jefferson's daughter, testified for the Commonwealth. The 22-year-old spoke about losing her father and how it's impacted her family emotionally and financially. She said her younger brother, a student at Clover Hill High School, has been struggling with the loss and isn't talking to anyone.
The judge ordered that Pernell pay the Jefferson family around $14,000 in restitution after he serves his sentence. Eight years is a lot better than the 25 Pernell faced, said his defense attorney after the sentencing.