Less than a year after a car crash caused the death of their son Louis, Jake and Joanne Romanell asked a Frederick County judge to give the woman responsible a lenient sentence.
“Yvonne will have to live knowing she caused his death,” Jake Romanell said Tuesday in Frederick County Circuit Court at a sentencing hearing for Yvonne Loree Avaritt.
“Louie loved Yvonne, and he wouldn’t want the court to take her away from her son,” Romanell said.
Avaritt, 28, of New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to negligent vehicular manslaughter in May. On Tuesday, Judge William R. Nicklas Jr. sentenced her to 10 years with all but 90 days suspended.
The charges against Avaritt stem from a July 28 car crash that occurred in the 11000 block of Taneytown Pike just after 11 p.m. Avaritt was driving a Chrysler 500 that left the road and struck a tree. Louis Romanell, 35, the only other person in the car, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Avaritt was injured and was taken to a hospital. Analysis found she had a blood alcohol content of .14, well above the legal limit for driving of .08, the night of the crash, according to prosecutors.
Avaritt was indicted on a charge of negligent manslaughter involving a vehicle in December. A conviction of the felony charge requires prosecutors to prove Avaritt caused the death of another as a result of her driving in a “grossly negligent manner.”
Ten years in prison is the maximum sentence allowed under Maryland law.
“She didn’t wake up that day and say, ‘Today I’m going to kill my boyfriend,’” Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Moore told the court Tuesday. “But we all make choices, thousands of choices, that become actions, and actions have consequences.”
Louis Romanell grew up in Frederick County and graduated from Linganore High School in 1999. He earned a business degree from Frederick Community College and managed a Napa Auto Parts store in Maryland for 17 years. Romanell was the father of a 6-year-old son.
“Every day, I cry multiple times a day,” Joanne Romanell said in court. “You killed Louie. This is all on you.”
While expressing grief and pain at the loss of their son, both of Louis Romanell’s parents asked that Nicklas sentence Avaritt to as little jail time as possible.
“Yvonne has a son of her own, and her son needs him,” Joanne Romanell said. “She is solid and consistent in her parenting. ... One child hurt is enough.”
The Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office sought a sentence of 10 years with all but 18 months or less suspended. Sentences of 18 months or less can be served at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center, rather than in a Maryland Division of Corrections facility outside the county.
Avaritt will be subject to five years of probation.
Six members of Avaritt’s family attended her sentencing Tuesday to support her. Her mother apologized to the Romanell family.
Avaritt told the court and the family of the victim she is sorry.
“Not a day goes by I don’t think of him,” she said. “Louie is the love of my life. ... All I have is memories and guilt. I have a hole in my heart, and my life will never be the same.”
Nicklas said the case was a difficult one, and lauded Jake and Joanne Romanell for their statements.
“I’m amazed but heartened by your humanity,” Nicklas said. “I know what you must feel. Putting that aside is remarkable.”