Assisted by a cane and members of the Hall County District Attorney’s Office, Elizabeth Perez approached the lectern Wednesday to tell Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver of her 19-year-old son Jesus.
Perez spoke at the sentencing hearing for Jonathan Derek Flanagan, of Dahlonega, who was found guilty of vehicular homicide in the Dec. 6, 2016, wreck that killed Jesus Perez and injured Elizabeth Perez along with her two children, Stephanie, 16, and Matthew, 14.
Elizabeth Perez said she was “blessed” to see Jesus graduate prior to his death. She and others who spoke at sentencing said they forgive Flanagan but asked that he was held responsible for the wreck on Thompson Bridge Road near Price Road.
“I know it’s not going to bring my son back, but I do want justice. I don’t want nobody else to get hurt or have other families go through what I’m going through,” Elizabeth Perez said.
Oliver sentenced Flanagan to 15 years with five years incarceration. He would be given credit for time served between December 2016 and March 2017. The rest of the sentence would be on probation.
Flanagan was found guilty on all counts including first- and second-degree vehicular homicide, serious injury by vehicle, reckless driving, driving on a suspended license and failure to maintain lane.
Oliver said vehicular homicide cases “are probably the most difficult cases that judges and jurors have to deal with” in the court system.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance advised the judge about Flanagan’s prior driving history and tickets, which included one not far from the scene of the wreck.
“Not only is a mother deprived of her son forever, but she has lifelong injuries that give her constant pain,” Vance said.
Now learning the role her older sibling played in the family, Stephanie Perez said her brother “made it seem easy.”
Frank Alvarez, Elizabeth Perez’s brother, said the family was coming from church the night of the wreck. He arranged the funeral details as Elizabeth Perez was still in the hospital.
“It hurts me a lot knowing that she could not say goodbye to him, see him for the last time and say goodbye. That really hurt me. What hurts me the most now is to see her in pain every day in her life,” he said.
In tears, Flanagan turned to the family, expressed his remorse and asked for forgiveness. He said he wanted to send letters and had even written a song.
“I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I’d do if I lose my son,” Flanagan said.
The court also recommended that Flanagan “enter into and successfully complete a custodial (Residential Substance Abuse Treatment) program and all associated aftercare.”
Oliver kept the matter of restitution open for the next 60 days.