Lisa Leavitt, 37, was drunk when she slammed into Karen LaPierre as the 63-year-old church worker was loading doughnuts into her car for the after-Mass gathering she helped run at Sacred Heart Church in Haverhill late last December.
In an instant, a woman's life was lost and the lives of many others were shattered.
Last week in Haverhill District Court, Leavitt was sentenced for her crime. She sobbed as she pleaded guilty and accepted the maximum sentence for motor vehicle homicide — 21/2 years in jail.
Leavitt's lawyer, Gerard LaFlamme, said Leavitt had told him not to try to mount a defense because she wanted to take responsibility for her actions.
"She did not want to put the LaPierre family through anything more," LaFlamme said.
He said Leavitt, who wasn't a churchgoer, had begun attending services while held at the Framingham state prison for women and "when she gets out, she will be a better person."
LaPierre's widower, Bill, is the kind of person Leavitt might hope to become.
His wife died in his arms as she was pinned between her car and Leavitt's. And when he rose to read a statement to the court last week, he did not sugarcoat how devastating the death of his wife had been and continues to be.
He said the killing of his "soulmate" was "an inexcusable act of disregard for a beautiful human life, by a drunk driver. ... Her life was cut short at a time when we were supposed to reap the benefits of a hardworking and caring life. My pain is unbearable and I see that pain in our whole family. ... My life will never be the same, my loneliness is a daily sentence for me."
Yet through the pain, LaPierre was able to gather the strength to do the one thing no one else could: forgive Lisa Leavitt.
"I forgive you for what you have done to my family and me and hope you get the help you need to become a better person," he stated.
The court fell silent as LaPierre spoke, a silence punctuated only by Leavitt's quiet sobs. Hopefully, this tremendous display of grace and forgiveness will serve as an example to those who, in the wake of a devastating loss, want only revenge.