Jonathan Hyde's vehicle plowed with such force into Kelly Berry on Aug. 13, 2003, the impact ended her life and left the word "Toyota," imprinted on her leg.
"He took my future, my family's future away," said Kelly's weeping father, Randy Tassi. "She was my best friend, my hunting partner. He hasn't done anything in his life."
Tassi's statement, along with half a dozen others, came prior to a Reno judge sentencing Hyde, 41, to 20 years in prison Friday for driving under the influence of drugs.
Kelly Berry was four months married and 24 years old when she and husband, Darin, a Storey County firefighter, stood in front of their new home to watch the sunset.
Hyde, freshly released from a Reno hospital following an earlier accident in Sparks, was in a truck southbound on Toll Road in the Virginia Foothills. Without warning, Hyde's truck veered across two lanes and struck the newlyweds from behind. Darin suffered a severe break to his leg. Kelly died at the scene.
According to court records, Hyde had five times the statutory limit of marijuana in his blood and nearly twice the limit of methamphetamine. He pleaded guilty in December.
Flanked by his father, Nevada Judicial College professor Lawrence Hyde, and attorney John Oakes, Jonathan Hyde wept during a brief statement.
"There's really no words to put how I feel. I wouldn't hurt a fly," he said. "Not a day or night goes by that I don't think about what happened. If I could have taken her place, I would."
But his remorse meant little to Berry's family. And Kelly's sister told him so.
"She was my baby sister," Angel Russell said. "Unless you have pain from your soul every moment of every day, don't compare your pain to ours."
Loyd Toland, Kelly's grandmother, plainly stated the facts.
"Jonathan Hyde, you killed my granddaughter," she said, in the booming voice of a matriarch. "I cannot forgive the pain and river of tears you have caused us."
Now, nearly two years after the fateful day, Darin Berry's body has healed. Strong, the widower looked Hyde directly in the eye.
"We did not know what hit us. He didn't come to our assistance. He walked the other way," he said of the accident. "Kel was the best person in the world. Our life was perfect. I loved her so much."
Janice Tassi seemed barely able to keep her balance. Her daughter was dead and the aching mother had been waiting for a chance to speak to her killer. But it wasn't anger that spilled forth.
Instead, she read an essay Kelly wrote about herself while a sophomore in high school. And a letter Kelly left after she and Darin married, thanking her parents for their support.
Janice Tassi spoke of how hard her daughter had worked to earn a degree in criminal justice, how eager she was in her position with the Washoe County courts to help abusers of drugs and alcohol, and how her girl had become someone the community and world would be proud of.
"A part of all of us died that night," Tassi said in a gentle voice, her hands shaking. "You would have felt the same way about her. She would have helped you if you had asked."
Hyde will be eligible for parole in 53 months.
- Contact reporter F.T. Norton at email@example.com or 881-1213.