TAMPA - Three years ago, the family of Cathy Manzano Jones gathered in Tampa for her wedding.
This morning, they gathered in a courtroom for the sentencing of the drunken driver who plowed into a car carrying members of the bridal party, killing five of Manzano Jones' relatives.
"We are glad it is over," said Manzano Jones, one of six family members to speak at the sentencing. "We got to say what we wanted to say. We got a lot off our chests."
Kenneth Delmar Stewart was sentenced to 25 years in prison followed by 10 years of probation. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Robert Foster imposed the sentence, part of a plea bargain between prosecutors and Stewart, who pleaded guilty in June.
Family members approved the deal but said they still struggle with the sentence.
"Twenty five years is short considering he has killed five people," said Alenor Stangle, daughter of crash victim Sonia Medders.
"Twenty five years out of Stewart's life is nothing compared to taking my mother's life and is nothing compared to affecting the lives of more than 50 of my family members," she said.
On April 21, 2006, Stewart was driving east on Lumsden Road about 3 a.m. when his Dodge Durango crashed into a Mercedes carrying Manzano Jones' relatives to her mother's home in Brandon.
Emily Manzano, the bride's mother, and two of the bride's cousins were killed in the crash. Two other family members died later.
Tests showed Stewart was driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.12; state law presumes a driver is impaired at 0.08.
Cathy Manzano and Cory Jones went ahead with their wedding to honor her mother, who had spent a year planning it.
"It was something we had to do," Manzano Jones said. "I knew my mother wanted us to continue. I know she was watching over it."
Local relatives still gather each April 21 for prayers and a Mass to honor and remember those who died. Then, the next day they celebrate the wedding anniversary.
Stewart has been jailed since the wreck. His 4-year-old son drowned in a relative's pool the month after the crash.
He brought up his loss in apologizing to the victims' families sitting in the courtroom.
"Since it happened, I feel your pain," he said. "I understand your pain this past three years and will for the rest of my life."
He said he has forgiven the relative who was supposed to be watching his son. He asked the Manzano family for the same.
"I ask you if you have it in your hearts to forgive me and to move on with your lives," he said.
Manzano Jones said she empathizes with Stewart but can't forgive him.
"I feel sorry for him, that he has to sit in jail," she said. "I do not have it in me to forgive him for what he did."