A Fresno County courtroom became silent Thursday when Doug Griffin spoke directly to the man responsible for his daughter’s death in a DUI-related crash last February.
Griffin, speaking in English and Spanish, told 24-year-old Hector Castillo-Pichardo that his family forgave him for the terrible mistake that claimed the life of Molly Griffin. And he told the young man not to lose hope.
“God spared you,” Griffin said. “He has a plan for you. You must go on.”
Castillo-Pichardo, who spent more than an hour standing stoically in a red jumpsuit and shackles as the victims’ friends and family spoke at the sentencing hearing, bowed his head and wiped tears from his eyes after Griffin addressed him directly. He never once looked toward the benches holding around 25 victim supporters and several of his own family members.
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Shortly after Griffin’s statements, Castillo-Pichardo was sentenced to 16 years in state prison for the crash, which ultimately killed two people and injured two more.
Fresno County Superior Court Judge James A. Kelley gave him one year of credit for time served in jail while awaiting trial.
On Nov. 30, Castillo-Pichardo pleaded no contest to two felony counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, drunken driving causing injury, being an unlicensed driver and failing to stop at a red light.
On Feb. 21, 2015, Castillo-Pichardo ran a red light while driving drunk near Copper River Drive and Friant Avenue, hitting a car carrying Molly Griffin and Emily Krieghoff, both 23. Griffin died at the scene, and Krieghoff was seriously injured.
Castillo-Pichardo’s passenger, 32-year-old Oscar Felix Vega, also died. Another man in the car, Jose Flores, was badly hurt.
Molly Griffin, a Fresno State nursing graduate, and Krieghoff had just finished looking at a home for sale in the Copper River Ranch community. Griffin had started working as a registered nurse in the surgical department of Madera Community Hospital.
Everyone in the courtroom – judge, defendant, lawyers, reporters and around 30 supporters – fought back tears as Doug and Doris Griffin held up their daughter’s Fresno State graduation photo and addressed the court.
“I will never see her marry the love of her life,” Doris Griffin said. “I will never hold the children she dreamed of having.”
A little more than an hour before her death, Molly Griffin bought tickets for a trip to New York City she had planned with her older brother, Joey, their mother said. She also read a note given to her by Molly the previous Christmas, in which her daughter told her one of her goals in 2015 was to spend more time with the people she loved – especially her mother.
Doris Griffin told the judge she will likely step down as dean of students at Clovis Community College because she now has difficulty performing the duties of her “dream job.”
Krieghoff also spoke. She’s had lingering problems as a result of the brain and heart trauma she suffered in the accident. Her medical bills have totaled more than $500,000. She’s also experienced survivor’s guilt, sometimes wondering why she lived and her best friend died.
Her mother and a few others also spoke to the judge, who quickly granted the prosecution’s 16-year sentence recommendation. Castillo-Pichardo faced a maximum of 21 years in prison.
Before the sentence was handed down, Castillo-Pichardo addressed the court through his attorney: “The forgiveness extended to me overwhelms me. I do not deserve it.”