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August 1, 2014

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DUI driver who killed trick-or-treater sentenced to 20 years in prison

Faith Monet Love

Faith Monet Love

Justin Caramanica

Justin Caramanica

Their last conversation was a phone call, as mother told daughter to be careful and stick close to the group — words likely echoed by countless parents Halloween night.

“I told her to have fun, and I told her I loved her,” Rocquell Love recalled Monday morning in a Las Vegas courtroom.

What happened several hours later was beyond the control of Rocquell Love and her 12-year-old daughter, Faith, who was hit and killed by an impaired driver while trick-or-treating last year in a Summerlin neighborhood.

Clark County District Court Judge Elissa Cadish on Monday imposed the maximum sentence for 42-year-old Justin Caramanica, the man behind the wheel of a vehicle prosecutors say was traveling upwards of 50 mph on a residential street when the collision occurred.

Caramanica was sentenced to 20 years in prison with parole eligibility after eight years, in addition to a $2,000 fine and restitution totaling $7,932.36.

In a showing of solidarity, Faith Love's family members attended the sentencing wearing white T-shirts adorned with multiple photos of Faith.

While imposing the sentence, Cadish said Caramanica’s subsequent DUI arrest in September — while he was free on bail awaiting sentencing for the death of Love — “gives the court great concern about the danger that there may be in the future.”

During the sentencing hearing, Caramanica addressed the courtroom, expressing his remorse and acknowledging he couldn’t imagine losing one of his two daughters.

“I’m haunted at night by nightmares,” he said. “…I’m sorry. If I could have been the one injured that night, I would have been.”

In July, Caramanica pleaded guilty to driving under the influence causing death or substantial bodily harm. Steve Waters, a Clark County deputy district attorney, said Caramanica had alcohol and marijuana in his system, in addition to traces of painkillers, at the time of the wreck.

Although Caramanica’s blood-alcohol concentration registered at 0.067 and 0.068 — below the legal threshold — Waters called the addition of other substances a “deadly combination.”

Caramanica’s attorney, William Terry, said his client feared he was being pursued by another vehicle pulling a boat prior to striking Love.

“His error was that he sped, and he went through an area where he shouldn’t have been speeding,” Terry said.

Terry also acknowledged Caramanica’s subsequent DUI arrest Sept. 22. He said Caramanica would suffer the consequences for “stupidly” agreeing to drive a friend’s daughter to a party, violating his release on bail.

Metro Police arrested him on suspicion of driving under the influence, driving without proof of insurance and driving with a suspended license after he struck a parked car on Silvered Bark Drive, near Sahara Avenue and Town Center Drive.

Faith Love’s mother and grandfather, joined by other family and friends who filled the courtroom’s public seating, asked Cadish to impose the maximum sentence.

“I understand he has two beautiful, young daughters, but at least whatever sentence he gets, they can still see him,” said Bobby Harris, the victim’s grandfather.

Harris and Rocquell Love described Faith as a young girl with big dreams — becoming an engineer and practicing marine biology as a hobby — who enjoyed school, reading, dancing and singing.

Amid tears, Rocquell Love said it pained her to think she would never witness her daughter attend prom, go to college and have children.

“My mind doesn’t know how to function without her presence,” said Rocquell Love, who said she felt like her family received the worst sentence.

After the victim-impact statements, the prosecution played a 15-minute video depicting Faith’s life through photos.

Toward the end, Faith, smiling broadly, poses with friends that Halloween night. Caramanica broke down in tears.

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  1. Excellent! But the sentence comes one child too late! Authorities need to be much less lenient on drunks who drive and threaten us all. As we see in this case, drunks are potential killers. First timers deserve jail time. There is no excuse for drinking & driving. None! Period!

  2. Shouldn't there be a second parent in jail here? I mean what parent in their right mind toss's the keys to a car to a person who is awaiting sentencing for DUI with death, and says "Hey, take my daughter to a party" ??