Monrovia widow faces drunk driver in court

Wednesday, December 20, 2017
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Chris Nelson was killed by a drunk driver in 2016, leaving behind his wife Erica and four children.

PASADENA, Calif. (KABC) -- A Monrovia widow faced her husband's killer and poured out her heart in court Tuesday.

Her statement about the loss of her 41-year-old husband Chris Nelson was so powerful, the man held accountable for Nelson's death was moved to tears.

Eduardo Macias Santibanez accepted a plea of guilty to driving under the influence and gross vehicular manslaughter.

He listened to Erica Nelson describe the impact of death on her and her four children. The youngest was 18 months old at the time of the crash. She says he still asks for "Da-da."

"I hope people will see the effects that someone's selfish decision has and think twice before they drink and drive," said Erica Nelson outside the courthouse.

Santibanez, 25, of Pasadena, rear-ended Nelson's car at high speed on the eastbound 134 Freeway at Orange Grove, sending Nelson's vehicle crashing into the center median.

Santibanez apologized in court for his actions on that February night in 2016.

"I pray for your family every day," said Santibanez through his tears.

Nelson was still alive after the crash but pinned inside the car that was now sitting in the fast lane. He waited 12 minutes for help. But then another car came too fast to avoid him. That second collision killed him.

"I believe if someone was able to come to his rescue, officer or some kind of first responder, they could have saved my husband's life. That second accident wouldn't have happened and I wouldn't be standing here today," Nelson said.

This Christmas the mother of four says she's emotionally and financially exhausted.

Her sister set up a GoFundMe account to help with essentials. Nelson had to quit her job and they moved from the home where there were too many reminders of the dad, a devoted coach for his daughters' softball teams.

As for Christmas gifts, Nelson and her sister say they don't mean so much to the children these days.

"Every day gets worse. It's 667 days without him. Every day it's painful," says Karen Cockrell, the victim's sister-in-law.

"The hardest thing for them to give up is their dad," said Erica Nelson.