Illegal Immigrant sentenced in deadly New Year's Day crash

Illegal Immigrant sentenced in deadly New Year's Day crash

By Keller Russell & Dan O'Donnell. CREATED Jul 22, 2011

MILWAUKEE - The man who killed a mother while driving drunk and the wrong way on I-94 on New Year's Day has been sentenced to 15 years in prison and 7 years extended supervision.

Leopoldo Salas-Gayton, 41, was convicted of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, homicide by the use of a vehicle with a prohibitive alcohol level, and operating without a valid license and causing death to another person.  He is also living in this country illegally.

The crash killed Corrie Damske, 34, who also had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit.

Damske's family and friends attended Friday's sentencing. Her mother, Sharon Hvala tearfully told the judge about her daughter and the loss the family feels.

"It has torn the very heart out of myself and my family and left us with an absence so profound," said Hvala. "There will never be again a full extent of happiness again in my life."

Gayton was wheeled into the courtroom in a wheelchair, then pulled out again to be read letters that were submitted to the court on behalf of Damske's friends and family.

He returned to the courtroom sobbing.

The state prosecutor told the judge Salas used his vehicle as a weapon.

The judge later agreed.

"You didn't set out to kill someone that day but you did set out to drive drunk," Circuit Judge Dennis Cimpl told Salas.

Salas sobbed hearing Damske's family speak. A translator relayed the words.

He read a letter in Spanish, asking Damske's family for forgiveness and mercy.

Damske mother said the remorse is meaningful to her but she says Salas made his choices, choices that leave her shattered.

"I feel judge Cimpl did his job and nothing will bring my daughter back and it's just been a bad situation all the way around."