CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — One year ago, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill radio sportscaster Stephen Gates was killed in a hit-and-run accident on Interstate 40.
This week, the man charged in connection with his death is scheduled to go on trial.
Stephen Gates, 27, a reporter for the Tar Heel Sports Network, pulled off I-40 to fix a flat tire on Oct. 24, 2003. Investigators said he did not have his hazards on and was partially in a merge lane.
Gates was hit by a Cadillac Escalade and knocked more than 150 feet. He died almost instantly.
"I just can't believe they'd leave him to die. That's the hardest part -- that's the hard part," mother Pat Gates said.
As part of a plea deal, Emily Caveness admitted she was behind the wheel that night. Prosecutors said she pulled over, but passenger Rabah Samara got in the driver's seat and took off.
Samara faces felony hit-and-run charges.
"We don't want revenge. We want justice," Pat Gates said.
The couple also wants an apology.
"There's sort of a justice and mercy balance," father George Gates said
In the last year, they have found strength in family and friends.
Gates' mother wears Stephen's class ring for comfort.
"Whenever I think about him, I kiss my ring," she said.
There are voids.
"It's really the small, everyday touches people you love bring to your life, because they're unremarkable until they're gone," George Gates said.
"We are so proud of him," Pat Gates said.
The couple said they will never fully understand what happened that night or why. They said memories of their son's death will never overshadow the 27 years they had with him.
The Gates family established a scholarship in Stephen's name at UNC's School of Journalism. The first scholarship will be awarded this spring.