A man driving a Jeep who hit a 14-year-old boy and left him to die at the side of a dark road last November pleaded guilty Thursday and was sentenced to 41 months in prison for failing to remain at the scene of the fatal accident.
Prosecutors tried to build a vehicular homicide case against 26-year-old Miles L. Horn in the death of Rick Gomez, but could not prove Horn had been drinking. He was arrested on Dec. 19, 2007 – three weeks after the Nov. 24 accident – when Spokane County sheriff’s deputies received an anonymous tip about the location of his girlfriend’s Jeep Cherokee in a garage in Spokane Valley.
In an emotional sentencing before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann C. Moreno, Gomez’s mother and other family members pleaded for the maximum sentence for Horn, who faced 31 to 41 months in prison because he had no prior criminal record.
Suzanne Nichols, Gomez’s mother, said she “woke to a parent’s worst nightmare” when a sheriff’s deputy called her around midnight the night of the accident. “How could someone have left a helpless child to bleed to death?” she asked through tears. “My life is forever changed … The laughter is gone; it’s replaced by tears and anger.”
Those who spoke on behalf of the dead teenager portrayed him as a fun-loving kid who sold lemonade and did yard work for pay in his Spokane Valley neighborhood, loved to watch the Food Network and cook chili, and once gave a $20 bill to a homeless man.
His older sister Natasha Gomez, who is overseas with the U.S. military, sent a statement assailing Horn for leaving one child to die and three of his friends to watch at the accident scene. His younger sister, Niki Nichols, said she’s had vivid nightmares about the accident for eight months.
Horn’s girlfriend, Miranda Dumarce, who has had two young children with him, asked the judge for leniency. “He is a loving, caring father. He feels horrible for causing the death of a child,” she said.
As he stood for his sentencing, Horn faced Gomez’s mother and the rest of his family for the first time.
“I’m ready for this to be over and hopefully give this family a sense of closure,” Horn said.
Moreno rejected a sentencing option available for first-time offenders: a “work ethic” camp. Horn will serve his sentence in prison with credit for the half-year in jail he has already served.