A sense of closure is settling in for two families mourning the loss of their mothers who died in a collision. 23-year-old Jonathan Dillard, the man responsible was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
On June 9th, 2013, Maryjo Badali was enroute to the airport for a wedding. Before dawn, she and her friend, Mary Birks waited at the intersection of highway 79 and Back Beach Road and highway 79.
Unfortunately, that never happened. Police say Jonathan Dillard slammed into their car. Estimates suggest he was traveling at 80 to 100 miles per hour.
"He struck them with his vehicle with enough force that caused both of their deaths." Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford says.
Panama City Beach Police now in custody of the vehicles showed us the extent of the damages. Based on blood samples, it was determined Dillard was under the influence of L.S.D, marijuana and alcohol.
On Wednesday, the court accepted Dillard's plea to two counts of dui manslaughter. But despite feeling an overwhelming amount of sadness, these families have found it in their hearts to forgive Dillard.
"I want you to know that of all the people in this room that my mother would be the most worried about would be you. She's not perfect, never claimed to be. She was very forgiving, very loving and always trying to be better." Patty Sambonya says.
In addition to serving 20 years in prison, Judge James Fensom ordered Dillard pay more than $20,000 in court fees and restitution to the victim's families.
Previous version provided by: District 14 State Attorney's Office
Circuit Judge James Fensom sentenced Jonathan Dillard to more than 20 years in prison Wednesday after accepting his plea to two counts of DUI manslaughter.
Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford told Fensom that he was prepared to prove at trial that Dillard, who will turn 24 on Jan. 22, of 9722 Campflowers Road, Youngstown, was driving June 9 after ingesting LSD. He was eastbound on Back Beach Road when he collided with a vehicle stopped in a turn lane waiting to go northbound on U.S. 79. The impact killed MaryJo Anne Badali and Mary Elizabeth Birks. Investigators estimated that Dillard's vehicle was traveling between 80 and 100 mph at the time of crash.
Dillard pleaded no contest to two counts of DUI manslaughter and one count each of possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana and resisting officers without violence. Fensom adjudicated him guilty and sentenced him according to the plea agreement to 243 months in prison.
Numerous members of Birks' and Badali's families filled rows of pews in the courtroom and Basford told Fensom that the families approved the plea.