Friday Mar 06 2009
Similarities between two deadly crimes proves gut-wrenching
By: Penne Usher, Journal Correspondent
There have been many stories that have touched my heart and had an impact on my life. But, after more than seven years in the journalism business I was not prepared for the emotional toll that Doug Wyatt’s story would have on me. Doug’s son Robert Wyatt was 15 years old when a drunken driver killed him on Dec. 10, 1999. Josh Sanguinetti, then 22, served less than two years of his seven-plus-year sentence for his part in the head-on collision that killed the teen and severely injured his then-17-year-old sister, Jennifer. The ironic twist that led to the resurrection of this story is that Sanguinetti’s mother, Anna Berset, 52, of Folsom, was recently convicted of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run for the death of 15-year-old Courtney Parker, a well-liked Granite Bay cheerleader. Both mother and son were traveling from Auburn to Folsom along Auburn Folsom Road when they both killed teenagers. Sanguinetti was found to be under the influence of alcohol at the time. He fled the crash scene on foot, but was later located by Placer County deputies. Berset too fled the scene, notifying law enforcement later that she believed she hit “something.” Although officials have speculated that she had been drinking, they were unable to confirm this since Berset fled the area and did not turn herself in until the next day. I recently interviewed Doug Wyatt. Sitting in the Wyatts’ Loomis home I was moved nearly to tears by the graphic details Doug Wyatt recounted about the day his son was killed. For the first time in my career I stopped the interview. We were about 45 minutes in. I paused, suggesting it would be a good time for Photo Editor Ben Furtado to take some photos. Doug’s emotions were so fresh and so raw, even though it’s been nearly a decade since the tragedy. My son Auston is 15 years old. Perhaps there was a bit of internalizing as I listened to a father tell me that he held his son in his arms as he died. I cannot fathom the heartache that family, as well as the Parkers, has gone through. Adding insult to injury, Sanguinetti did not serve his full sentence, which to me was light to begin with. By all accounts Berset will not be serving a lengthy prison term for killing Courtney, either. It’s an injustice to the families who have lost a child. I understand that our legal system, even with its faults, is the best there is. My questions lie with the Berset and Sanguinetti families. Did Anna learn nothing from her son’s egregious error? And why after all these years has Josh Sanguinetti not taken responsibility for killing Robert? Sanguinetti has never apologized to the Wyatt family. In a world full of inhumanity a simple “I’m sorry,” could still go a long way toward the Wyatt family’s healing. But even a needed apology cannot bring the once-vibrant teenager back to life. The only lesson to be learned from these tragedies is that drunken driving kills. What does it take to get that message across? Penne Usher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.