AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - After more than a year behind bars, the man accused of killing 23-year-old Alexander Earles in a car accident accepted a plea deal.
Juan Castillo Reyes, an undocumented immigrant was driving without a license in March of last year while officials say he was speeding in a construction zone on I-20.
"I didn't mean to do this. And I know your pain because my family is going through it too. I could only imagine what you're going through," says Reyes.
"Tears don't matter to me or my family, they may matter to the court," says Patrick Earles.
More than a year after the tragic death of Airman Alexander Earles, the man behind the truck who caused that collision on I-20 came face-to-face with his father.
"The only thing I'm celebrating is that the matter is closed. I'm not celebrating the announcement or the verdict in any way whatsoever, in fact, I'm very disappointed," says Patrick.
Reyes, who is undocumented and has a history of driving without a license or insurance, plead guilty to 1 count of vehicular homicide and another count of driving with no license, which is supposed to have him behind bars for the next 4 years. His lawyer painted a picture of a hardworking man who came to this country for a better life.
"Knowing what he faced, he could have left. People told him to, but instead he said I caused this and I'm going to answer for it," his lawyer says.
The Prosecution says there were several slow down signs that Reyes chose to ignore for about a mile that caused him to collide with several cars eventually killing Earles. A moment in time the Earles family say they have forgiven but will never forget.
"There are consequences of our decisions. The defendant didn't intentionally kill my son but he took something very substantial, it cannot be replaced, we cannot be compensated for it," says Patrick.
While Reyes can be released on parole as early as next year, the Judge says accepting this guilty plead means ICE can step in and deport him back to his home country of Mexico. Despite it all, Patrick says he and his family hope in years down the road, Reyes can learn from this mistake and become a better man all around.
"We forgive him because it's the right thing to do for him and for us. He has to come to reconciliation for himself," says Patrick
Reyes has been living undocumented in the U.S. since 2005 and even got married in 2011. The Judge ordered, "no unwanted contact" between both Reyes. and the Earles family going forward.
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We now know the fate of the man who caused a crash that killed an airman stationed at Fort Gordon.
Juan Castillo-Reyes pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and driving without a license. He will serve 5 years in jail before being deported by ICE.
In court, Castillo-Reyes was extremely remorseful for his actions. His defense lawyer says he could have just left after the crash; people told him to leave. But Castillo-Reyes told him, "I caused it. I have to pay for this."
FOX 54's Shaquille Lord spoke with Patrick Earles, the father of Alexander Earles, after the sentencing. Patrick says he understands Castillo-Reyes did not intentionally kill his son. He says. "We don't need justice in life; we need mercy." However, he says he does feel that a sentence of only 5 years is a "slap on the wrist."