MANSFIELD, Texas — *Editor's note: The video in the player above was from a story that aired in 2021.*
A North Texas woman is pleading with people not to drink and drive during the New Year's Celebrations as 2022 comes to an end.
The plea comes after losing loved ones in a crash involving a drunk driver.
Leddy Harris of Paradise, Texas can barely hold back tears talking about her sister whom she misses very much. She wants people to think twice as they celebrate the incoming year with drinking, especially if they drive.
"You know you're out, you're drinking, and you are having a good time. You don't think you are the one who gets behind the wheel and takes the life of someone else," said Leddy. "You don't plan it, You don't expect it, and just like me, you are like, 'that will never happen to me.' But it does. It happens to people every single day."
The deadly crash that claimed the life of her loved ones happened on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, on the Texas 360 access road.
That's where 28-year-old Justin Dike ran into car trouble when he got a flat tire. He called his girlfriend Alexis Mills who decided to drive to the same location to help Justin. Alexis and Justin were in love and expecting their first child together.
As the couple attended to the flat tire, they were struck by 31-year-old Adan Hermosillo Garcia.
Emergency crews responded to the crash scene. Police learned that Adan had been drinking and eventually concluded his impairment played a role in the crash. Paramedics rushed Alexis to the hospital where emergency room personnel delivered her baby. But the baby boy did not survive. Justin and Alexis died, as well.
Since the crash happened right before the 2021 holiday season, Leddy had to suffer through Thanksgiving and Christmas without her loved ones. This year Leddy didn't want the reminder of being without them at home.
"So, this year, it's our second holiday without her. Last year it was crazy because we were still trying to process everything," said Leddy. "This year was just quiet, so we took off and went to Florida and did something we never did before."
Right after the 2021 crash that killed her loved ones, Leddy began her mission to make sure the driver was held accountable. She followed the investigation every step of the way. During the investigation, police obtained video from nearby interstate cameras which showed Garcia crashing into the couple, never even hitting the brakes on his vehicle. Leddy feared that the 31-year-old would either receive a light sentence or none at all.
But Leddy's persistence for accountability paid off. Adan agreed to a plea deal in August 2022 and received an 18-year sentence. He faced his victims' family members in court during the sentencing phase as they delivered impact statements in the case.
This year Leddy is urging drivers to plan ahead so they don't put another family through what she and hers have experienced in the past couple of years.
"I look at things so differently now," said Harris, "I will never have a drink and get behind the wheel. I preach it to everyone. I tell all my friends and my family, If you are going to have a drink, I don't care if it's one or two o'clock in the morning, and you can't find a ride, you call me and I will be there."
There are campaigns underway throughout North Texas to help New Year's Eve partygoers to get home safely if they've had alcohol to drink. Many law enforcement agencies in the DFW metro area have warned drivers about extra patrols to discourage drunk driving. Some police departments like Arlington PD used their Twitter account to post an anti-drunk driving message to followers.
Leddy urges drivers not to make the same mistake as the man she had to face in court. She believes after sharing an impact statement in court with him, he regrets his decision that not only changed her family's lives forever but also his own life.
"It's the hardest thing I have ever done in my life," said Leddy. "When I was on the stand, I asked him to look at me and listen, he did. He looked me straight in my eyes, he prayed, and he listened to every word I said. That day I was able to forgive him."
The day you took the life of my sister and nephew was the day a piece of us died too. We have learned this is a piece that you cannot fill. It is a piece that cannot be replaced by anything, ever.
That day we stopped breathing for a moment too. We wondered how the world around us continues to go on.
We had to start a new life. A life where we were daughterless, motherless, sisterless. It is now different than before, in the most painful and heartbreaking way you could ever imagine.
We looked around and questioned everything. I questioned my faith, our last words to each other, and every moment I spent away from her. My questions will never be answered, but I keep asking anyway.
We refused to accept this reality but it stays with us. The debilitating reality sunk in this year and That day was just as bad as the day she died.
We have been frozen with heartbreak, confusion, and terror. We have developed new anxieties and fears we never had before. Some days these fears are debilitating.
The day she died her kids were left without a mother. They are different kinds of kids than before, trust me. They long for her hug, her kiss, her time, and her presence. This longing never goes away.
It stays with them, but so does she, because she promised she would always be with them.
The day she died we gained the most beautiful angel. We can’t see her, but she is there, just as she promised she always will be.
We loved so hard, so deeply, so purely, that we will now grieve harder because of that beautiful love.
Alexius loved us all beyond measure. She mothered more beautifully than most. She believed in people more than they ever believed in themselves. You out of a selfish act took one of our most precious cargo on this planet.
Without hesitation, she was one of the most amazing mothers, sisters, and daughters we ever knew and will ever know. The feeling I felt when I carried my baby nephew to her casket is a feeling I will never forget, a mental picture that will never leave my head. He was perfect in every way.
We pray every day to have them back. Unfortunately, no prayers can bring her back. No wishes can make her appear.
We try so hard to remember her smile, remember her love, and remember her life. We will never forget her and everything that she was because the day she died her kids became her legacy.
Today I forgive you, I forgive you for your mistake, for your selfish acts, I don’t forgive you for your sake, I forgive you for mine. You will answer to God for your sins.