An undocumented immigrant did not have a driver’s license when he crashed into a car with a family inside, taking the lives of a woman’s husband and children. The grieving mom was forced to take matters into her own hands after the court determined his fate. Was justice served?
Margarito Quintero-Rosales was in the country illegally and not licensed to drive when he fell asleep behind the wheel of a van and crossed the center line of a Texas highway, ultimately striking another vehicle. That car, which Quintero-Rosales hit head-on, was being driven by Collin County volunteer firefighter Captain Peter Hacking. Also inside were the firefighter’s four-year-old daughter Ellie and his 22-month-old son Grayson. All three lost their lives.
Peter Hacking’s widow, Courtney Hacking, lost two children and her husband that tragic day, leaving the grieving mother to raise four remaining children alone. And, she believes it was completely preventable, especially since Quintero-Rosales was previously deported in 2008, according to CBS. “This is something that in my opinion was avoidable,” Courtney said. “That man took half of my heart that day that I will never get back.”
Our justice system compounded Courtney’s pain exponentially. Quintero-Rosales was arrested at the scene and held in jail until his conviction. A Collin County grand jury indicted him on three counts of manslaughter, which holds a penalty range of two to 20 years in state prison for each count in Texas. But, court records show Quintero-Rosales struck a deal with prosecutors from Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis’ office.
After pleading guilty to a lesser offense of criminally negligent homicide, Quintero-Rosales was sentenced to a paltry two years behind bars with credit for time served for the 537 days he spent in jail before his conviction. This means his jail time would be complete in less than 200 days — or roughly 6 and 1/2 months, according to basic math. This didn’t sit well with the woman who will mourn the loss of her husband and two children for the rest of her life.
“You weren’t supposed to be here,” Courtney said in a written statement read aloud to Quintero-Rosales in court. “All of this heartbreak is because of you,” she furthered. “You were in this country illegally for the second time. You were driving a car without a license coming from a job you were illegally paid to do,” she said. “Because of your selfishness, three beautiful people lost their lives.”
The sentence didn’t bring Courtney Hacking any comfort. “Not a day goes by that I don’t hope I’m going to wake up from a really bad dream,” she said. “How do you look at someone and say, ‘You killed 3 people, two years is all,'” she asked. “I feel like I walk around just existing. I’m not happy, and I’m not sad, I’m just here,” she admitted, fighting back tears. “I miss their kisses,” she said. “I miss everything about them on a daily basis.”
“A little girl who was a wonderful big sister. A little boy who never got a chance to grow up,” Courtney said, describing what Margarito Quintero-Rosales took from her. “A man who gave more than anyone I’ve ever seen give before,” she added, speaking of her own husband who was a legal immigrant.
This added insult to injury for Courtney. “Finding out it was an illegal immigrant, my husband himself was an immigrant, he came from England, he came here legally, he did it the right way, and he was a big believer in legal immigration, as am I,” she explained.
The frustration over the sentence, which she calls “a slap on the wrist,” has led her to take matters into her own hands. “People think his crime and his punishment seem to fit because he was an illegal immigrant,” Courtney explained. “But to me, being illegal in the country was a crime on its own, so I don’t understand how he did get only two years.”
Courtney Hacking has been working with federal lawmakers, on a mission to bring about harsher punishments for illegal immigrants who break the law because she sees being in the country illegally as an aggravating factor in the crimes committed.
“The message needs to be put across to them that when you come to this country you need to do it legally,” Courtney said, “because when they come here all they’re getting is…they’re committing crimes, they’re getting a slap on the wrist and they’re going back to Mexico or they’re going back to whatever country they came from.”
A message needs to be sent to anyone who repeatedly breaks the law and takes innocent lives, and this case failed miserably to do that. If anyone knowingly participates in a crime in which someone is killed, even if they didn’t intend for it to happen or it didn’t happen by their own hand, the punishment should be harsh. They willingly participated in law-breaking and should be held accountable for all of the consequences their illegal actions caused.