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Driver goes to prison

The Mauro family is tired of being a lesson to others.

A little over three months after an inebriated driver killed 24-year-old Donn Mauro, another drunken driver hit his father and stepmother.

Judy Stewart Mauro survived. Her husband, Alfonzo, was killed.

On Wednesday, as the family sat in court to see the second killer of a family member sentenced in less than five months, they questioned why they must pay for the tragic lapses in others’ judgment.

"Donny is not your lesson. You should have learned that a long time ago," his mother, Robin Derelin, told defendant Robert Lichamer.

Lichamer left a work-related party in the early morning hours of Feb. 6, 2006, and the truck he was driving collided head on with Donn Mauro’s Toyota Tercel at Grand Canyon and Homestretch drives, near Hualapai Way and Sahara Avenue.

District Judge Joseph Bonaventure gave Lichamer, who was 21 at the time of the crash, a three- to 10-year prison sentence, less than the five to 15 years recommended by parole and probation officials. The judge noted Lichamer’s remorse, lack of criminal history and absence of previous DUIs.

"I’ve never been able to apologize, and I can’t even face you guys right now, I’m so sorry," Lichamer tearfully told the Mauro family.

Lichamer, a native Nevadan, worked for a home building company and also was a full-time college student at the time of the accident.

"I’m deeply sorry this tragedy was caused by me. It should never have happened and it’s my own fault," he said. "Drinking and driving is something that never should be done."

A bailiff placed him in cuffs.

The Mauro family left the courtroom disappointed in the sentence.

"He got less than the woman who hit his father," Stewart Mauro said.

Angela Gutierrez, 27, hit her and her husband’s Jeep on May 11, 2006, at O’Bannon Drive and Decatur Boulevard.

With her 4-year-old son in the car, Gutierrez ran a red light going about 75 mph in a 45 mph zone with a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit.

She was sentenced in December to 3 1/2 to 15 years in prison.

Stewart Mauro was hospitalized after the accident. She recalled this week how Sandy Heverly, executive director of Las Vegas-based Stop DUI, came to visit her, held her hand and said, "What do you need?"

Stop DUI paid her rent for three months, and now Stewart Mauro tells her story to help the organization fight drunken driving.

Heverly, who was with the family at Lichamer’s sentencing, was also dismayed by the penalty.

"We know drunk drivers drive 80 times a year before they are caught, so this was not the first time" Lichamer drove drunk, she said.

Stop DUI plans to fight next legislative session to increase the minimum penalty for DUI fatalities from two years to at least five years.

Lichamer’s defense attorney, Frank Cremen, recalled for the court how a DUI fatality was once a gross misdemeanor voluntary manslaughter charge, and that defendants could receive probation. He said the Legislature has already increased penalties for the crime as he asked for the minimum sentence for Lichamer.

Prosecutor Steve Waters said Lichamer was going about 70 mph in a 35 mph zone on Grand Canyon Drive when the collision occurred. His blood alcohol level was nearly 0.18 percent, Waters said, more than twice the legal limit of .08 percent.

A witness saw Lichamer extricate himself from his truck, which had rolled over, peer into the window of Donn Mauro’s Tercel and run away, according to the police report.

He went to his girlfriend’s home about a mile away, where they contacted authorities.

"When police found him, he was lying on the floor sobbing," Cremen said.

But Donn Mauro’s sister, Tracy, said Lichamer left her brother to die.

She said her brother worked at the MGM Grand and was also a loan officer. He once rode 10 miles on a bicycle to the hospital to see her newborn baby.

"He was like a nerd in school. He was bullied. He was picked on. He was always given the short end of the stick," Tracy Mauro said as she asked Bonaventure to sentence Lichamer to the maximum.

Donn Mauro’s wife of 11 months, Khin Win, said he had been at his newly purchased home the morning of his death when, against her advice, he decided to drive to a nearby Del Taco to get a snack.

When he was gone for more than an hour, she tried to reach him on his cell phone. When he did not answer, she went out looking for him.

As she left the housing community, she heard sirens.

"I saw my car crushed so badly," she said.

Members of the Mauro family have become advocates for stiffer DUI penalties, but the death of Donn Mauro has launched Win into an additional crusade.

A native of Burma, also known as Myanmar, she came to the United States as a foreign student, met and fell in love with Donn Mauro.

At the time of his death, they had not been married long enough for her to qualify for permanent residency. Her application for permanent residency was denied and, as a result, Win could be deported.

She is one of at least 70 immigrant women in the United States caught in what they call the "widow penalty."

They have formed a group called Surviving Spouses Against Deportation, a nonprofit that advocates for legislation to allow lawful resident status for surviving spouses.

A 2006 United States 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturning one such deportation has helped Win receive reconsideration of her residency status, which is currently pending, she said.

Her family, which came to the United States for Donn Mauro’s funeral, remains in Burma, so she relies on the Mauros for support. They are her family here, she said.

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