Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

American Dreams Cut Short

Posted June 4, 2007

Two young people with their entire lives ahead of them -- both of them immigrants, one from the Dominican Republic, one from England, both of them engaged to be married to their partners.  Now, one is dead and the other is behind bars.  In the words of the victim's aunt, they were living the American dream; now they (the family members left behind) are living the American nightmare

Today 26-year-old Yokairi Diaz pleaded guilty to hit-and-run and DWI for killing 23-year-old Neil Anderson in the early morning hours of Sept. 7, 2006 on Capital Boulevard.  She was not charged with manslaughter, because, according to the assistant district attorney, the accident probably would have happened if Diaz had been sober.  In addition, under a law called contributory negligence, Anderson, who had also been drinking, is considered partially legally responsible for his own death.

Anderson's family is understandably torn up by the inability of the justice system to charge Diaz with a more serious crime.  Jenny Hanna, Anderson's mother, says the way the law reads the court has allowed Diaz to get away with murder.  They feel like Anderson's death is a life sentence of grief, while Diaz will only spend eight months at the most behind bars.  There is a hole in their hearts that cannot be filled with  punishment for Diaz, or apologies for their great loss.

Diaz sobbed during the entire sentencing hearing and apologized to the family and friends of Anderson saying:  "I feel so sorry.  I know it was my fault."  Her attorney said she had been truly remorseful all along and was willing to accept whatever punishment the court offered.  While her regret appeared to be genuine, it came too late for Anderson's family who wondered many times in the past  nine months why they had not heard from the young woman.  Her attorney says he asked her not to contact Anderson's family for legal reasons. 

And then there is the fact that Diaz not only left the scene of the accident after her friend told her she hit someone, but she drove back by it 30 minutes later and failed to stop,  Instead of helping, she went home to bed.  She told police when they finally caught up with her six hours later that she was scared.

"What kind of a person would be able to sleep after killing someone?"  Hanna asked the packed courtroom today.

Chances are Anderson's family, who hasn't had a decent night of sleep since his death, will still not be well-rested tomorrow even though Diaz is behind bars.  Chances are Diaz, on her first night in jail, will also not sleep well given the challenges she has ahead of her behind bars. 

Two lives -- irreparably destroyed ... and for what?





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  • jdraleigh Jun 6, 2007

    I haven't investigated the accident myself, but Ms. Lamb's article lacks logic. It states, "according to the assistant district attorney, the accident probably would have happened if Diaz had been sober," yet treats Ms. Diaz as if her drinking and recklessness had caused the wreck.

    If a sober U.S. citizen driver had been the one who happened to be on the road, and had killed Mr. Anderson, would the tone of the article be the same?

    I'm not sure whether Ms. Lamb is simply trying to create atmosphere with the last paragraphs of the article, or if she is engaging in the increasingly popular Hispanic-bashing. Either way, the tone and the concluding paragraphs don't fit the facts that she presented.

    This is not to justify drinking and driving. But the constant bashing of a racial or national group is another matter. If the mainstream media do not guard against this, they will usher in another era of lynchings, etc., like in the Jim Crow era, which we now regret.

  • packandcanesfan Jun 5, 2007

    I wish people would understand the dangers of alcohol and driving. It is an age-old problem and the results are the same. You might get by with it a time or two, but eventually something will happen. To you.. someone you love or someone that you don't even know and are totally innocent. Even in my "partying" days, I never did drink and drive. I thought about the family with little ones or someone else's loved ones that I might be meeting on the road..and thought of my own family and how I would feel if someone drunk killed them.

  • luvtoshag Jun 5, 2007

    I believe that the legal limit for blood alcohol should be 0.00! There is no excuse to allow someone to have ANY alcohol in their system and be allowed to drive. Why does the legislature think it is ok for a person to drive after they have consumed alcohol? I can't beleive that more people do not push for the 0.00 level. If someone they (the lawmakers and enforcers)know, love or are related to is killed by someone who has been drinking maybe, just maybe they would want the law changed too. I hope that someday the rest of America will feel like I do and push for the zero level. If you consume alcohol in any amount you are impaired, maybe not to the extent as someone who has a blood alcohol of 0.80 but you are still impaired and to think that is ok is absured.

  • Ashen-Shugar Jun 5, 2007

    Because of drinking. If neither of them had been drinking, we wouldn't be posting comments.

  • r-u-crazy Jun 5, 2007

    Unfortunately, another sad story. But, until we change the concept that having a good time and drinking go hand-in-hand, we're going to continue to have these types of stories. There's nothing wrong with "having a drink" (key word there is "a"). The boy was almost 3 times over the legal limit for driving (I know he was a pedestrian, but I think he was definitely "impaired"). She was impaired at the time of the accident, and scared (justifiably, I would be scared too if I thought I had just run over and killed someone. Wonder how impaired she was.) We have to change this "redneck, yuppie, cultural" concept that excessive drinking is a "good" thing, that the "drinking and partying" crowd is the "in" crowd (i.e. Paris Hilton and such.).

    Folks who speed excessively fall into the same group.

    And the only answer is to change our culture to reflect that this behavior is unacceptable, and make the consequences of this behavior sufficient to deter such behavior.

About this Blog:

WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.