An emotional, overflowing courtroom audience Friday afternoon, listened as Darrell Zahne, who pleaded guilty in March to manslaughter and aggravated assault in a crash that took the life of a Kingman High School student in October, was sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison.
With at least 20 members of Zahne's family and about the same number of the victims' family looking on, Mohave County Superior Court Judge Richard Weiss sentenced Zahne to five years for the manslaughter charge in the death of Christina Burcham and 3 1/2 years for the aggravated assault on her fiancé, Robert Goodhue.
Both terms are to be served consequently.
Zahne, 23, could have been sentenced the maximum of 21-1/4 years in prison.
He was originally charged with second-degree murder for the Oct.
1 crash that claimed the life of Burcham, 16, and severely injuring 18-year-old Goodhue.
In pleading guilty March 16, Zahne, originally of Page, admitted to drinking and crashing his 1990 pickup into a motorcycle carrying the couple around 8 p.m.
1 at the Bank Street and Northern Avenue intersection.
At Friday's hearing, Flagstaff attorney John Trebon called several of Zahne's relatives in testimony of his childhood and strong family life, including his father, brother and fiance.
He also said Zahne, and other American Indians, cannot tolerate alcohol as well as other races, which could be a mitigating factor.
Trebon also questioned Mohave County sheriff's deputy Don Bischoff, who was Chief Deputy County Attorney Jace Zack's witness, on the accuracy of how fast Zahne was driving that night.
Bischoff testified that he was traveling in excess of 60 mph on a street with a speed limit was 25 mph.
Trebon pointed out that witnesses said Zahne was driving from 35 to 45 mph.
Bischoff also testified that Zahne failed to stop at the intersection of Bank Street and Airway just prior to the accident.
"He literally flew through that intersection," Bischoff said.
Zahne then made a statement quietly apologizing to Burcham and Goodhue's families.
"This happened because of a disease called alcoholism," he said.
"Being in here (jail) for seven months, I learned my lesson.
I promised God I'd never drink again."
Goodhue, his leg still in a brace, also spoke along with other family members, just before sentencing, speaking of the never-ending nightmare.
"Forty-five or 65 (mph), what does it really matter," he said tearfully.
"Christina was thrown from the back of the motorcycle and killed instantly.
I remember being at the scene and screaming for Christina.
Trying to pull myself from Zahne's truck.
The real nightmare doesn't stop there, it goes on."
Goodhue spoke of spending 30 painful days in a Las Vegas hospital recovering from the accident that almost took his leg.
"I had to learn to walk and use my leg again but don't think the nightmare ended there," he said.
"He (Zahne) chose to get drunk.
He chose to get behind the wheel of a car and drive.
He could have risked the life of your loved ones.
Had Zahne not hit us it would have been someone else.
We need to send the message that this isn't okay."
At the time of the accident, Zahne's blood alcohol level was tested at .254 percent, more than twice the legal limit.
Burcham, a passenger on the motorcycle was taken to Kingman Regional Medical Center where she died from head injuries.
Goodhue was airlifted later that night to the Las Vegas hospital.
Zahne then fled the accident scene, stepping over the bodies of Burcham and Goodhue and getting a ride to his Butler area home.
Burcham would have turned 17 the next day.
The couple was returning from a celebration dinner where Goodhue had reportedly proposed to Burcham.
Zahne had previously been convicted of five prior misdemeanor offenses in the last five years, including alcohol abuse-related charges.