A man who drove his truck through a convenience store wall and killed a young mother of three last year was sentenced to 9 years in prison Wednesday.
Witnesses said Isaac Adams was driving a Chevrolet Avalanche at speeds that reached 80 to 100 mph — and had fled the scene from a minor wreck a few blocks away — when he lost control and crashed into Star Food Mart, 1799 E. Lancaster Ave., about 1:30 p.m. on March 31, 2015.
Adams was sentenced to 9 years on a manslaughter conviction and received 4-year sentences on each of two charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The sentences are to run concurrently, said Adams’ attorney, Cody Cofer.
“So he’ll be eligible for parole in about four years from today,” Cofer said. “I’m relieved the jury agreed that there is hope for redemption. The verdict shows compassion for all of those suffering in this case.”
Adams, 21, had minor injuries after the wreck. Police have said they suspect he was under the influence of a narcotic. Adams could have been sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Sylvia Zazueta, 24, who was inside the store and crushed by the pickup, was pronounced dead at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth about an hour after the wreck occurred, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner's office. She suffered critical injuries to her head, chest and extremities, a MedStar spokesman said.
The other people in the store had injuries that were not life-threatening.
‘People do change’
Cofer asked that the jury give his client probation and a chance to redeem himself.
“I believe in change and redemption,” Cofer said during the penalty phase of the trial. “Some of us are going to make bad mistakes, bad, bad decisions. But it's what we do after that defines us as men. Some people never change, but people can and people do change. Despite of the violence and the damage that they've done in their past, they can make a good impression on the world.”
Prosecutors, who asked for the maximum sentence, said the jury had an opportunity to know the real Adams during the trial. Adams tends to blame others for his mistakes, minimize their impact and not learn from them, said Richard Alpert, Tarrant County prosecutor.
“This is not the what can we do for Isaac Adams phase of the trial, this is the punishment phase of the trial,” Alpert said during his closing arguments. “You’ve got to think very carefully about what you say to the community with this sentence.”
Some of us are going to make bad mistakes, bad, bad decisions. But it's what we do after that defines us as men,
Cody Cofer, defense attorney
Zazueta’s mother, Laticia Galdiano, 41, gave a victim’s impact statement after the reading of his sentence. Zazueta was her oldest daughter and after her death, it was the mother’s job to integrate two families, Galdiano said.
One of her grandchildren lives with Zazueta’s husband and two have moved in with her, and she now has five children living at her home, Galdiano said. Her household’s income has not increased to accommodate the increase in her family’s size, Galdiano said.
“We can find it in us to forgive you for what you have done to our family in the future, but not at this time,” Galdiano said.
Adams nodded in understanding at her from the defense table.
“It was better than getting nothing at all,” Galdiano said of the sentence. “There was a point where we wanted to give up all together. They are going to notify me when he comes up for parole and I will contest that.”
‘Im a speeder, I’m a gypsy’
On Tuesday, Adams testified that he conceived a child with his girlfriend while he was out on bond after the crash.
But soon after, Adams was taken back to jail because alcohol was found in his system during mandatory testing. One condition of Adams’ bond was that he not drink alcohol, Alpert said.
Adams testified that he was not aware of drinking alcohol and testified that it might have been something that he ate.
“Did you eat a beer? Did you eat a drink? Did you eat some rum cake?” Alpert asked.
You’ve got to think very carefully about what you say to the community with this sentence,
Richard Alpert, prosecuting attorney.
According to Alpert, when Adams was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital after the crash, he flirted with nurses just a few feet from where Zazueta lay dead or dying. Adams asked the nurses how he looked on television, moments after giving a television reporter a thumbs up sign, Alpert said.
“ ‘That’s what I do,’ ” Alpert said, mimicking the defendant. “ ‘I’m a speeder. I’m a gypsy.’ ”
Adams testified that he was sexually abused by a family member when he was young and relatives testified that Adams changed after the death of his grandfather eight years ago.
Corey Bearden, a counselor who said he met with Adams 11 times while he was in jail, testified that Adams said he regretted his actions.
“He said he would trade places with Sylvia if he could,” Bearden said.
Adams said he had been punished every day since the wreck because of what he had done.
“Sometimes you make bad decisions,” Adams said. “You learn from your mistakes and you try to learn from the mistakes of others.”
Star-Telegram staff writer Deanna Boyd contributed to this story.