YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) - An illegal immigrant with a history of drug arrests has been sentenced to five years and a month behind bars for the traffic death of a popular community college educator. The prison term for Marcos Ramos Medina, 35, a twice-deported Mexican national who most recently lived in Portland, Ore., was the maximum under state guidelines for vehicular homicide. His criminal record in Portland included possession of cocaine and the sale of heroin for profit, and he also had a federal firearms conviction. Medina was convicted last month of being high on methamphetamine when his car crossed the center line on U.S. Highway 95 near Satus Pass on Aug. 4, 2005, and collided nearly head-on with a 2000 Lexus driven by Peggy Keller, 53, a radiology expert and dean of distance education and technical services at Yakima Valley Community College.Defense lawyer Jeff West said the verdict would be appealed. During the trial he argued that Medina acted with recklessness or negligence, which would be treated less severely, rather than driving while impaired, which is grounds for a vehicular homicide conviction.
De'Andre Sanders didn't speak up during an emotional sentencing hearing Friday for Marcos Medina in Yakima County Superior Court.
But in the hallway he did.
After Medina received the maximum sentence allowable for vehicular homicide -- about five years -- in the death of educator Peggy Keller, Sanders spoke about how the Yakima Valley Community College dean had turned his life around. Sanders met Keller when he had worked for Shopko. He credited her with making him a better person and giving his life a purpose that led to a full-time job, a wife and family, and a home of his own. "I don't think I would have been as successful without her," the 29-year-old college computer technician said. Just two days before her death, Keller had treated Sanders and his fiancée to dinner as a way to celebrate their impending marriage. Sanders' appreciation for the impact Keller had on his life was repeated throughout the hour-long hearing as co-workers, friends and family members described the 53-year-old Keller as a kind and caring person whose death left a permanent void in their lives.
Peggy Keller leaves a husband, Gordon, a son Kyle, and her mother Ruth Cahall.