Sheraea Lanae Gatlin was sentenced to five years’ probation in Fresno Superior Court on Friday for killing her boyfriend, Rodrigo Delgado Bravo, while driving drunk last year. She will move from state prison, where she had spent the last three months being evaluated, to Fresno County Jail, where the first year of her probation will be spent, with possible early release for good behavior. .
Judge Alvin Harrell III also handed down a suspended five-year prison sentence. If Gatlin violates the strict terms of her probation, which include no alcohol consumption whatsoever, she will go to prison. Gatlin had pleaded guilty on all counts related to the crash. She now has three strikes on her criminal record. Should she commit another felony, she would face enhancements under California’s three strikes law.
Bravo was killed on Aug. 10, 2015, when his car, traveling 25-35 mph, hit a tree.
Both Bravo and Gatlin had been drinking at a pool hall. Gatlin’s attorney, Gerald Schwab, described the events that followed: Bravo did not want to leave his Ford Mustang at the pool hall overnight. Bravo asked Gatlin to drive home, as she was less intoxicated. But she did not know how to drive a manual transmission. At some point, she hit the gas instead of the brake and accelerated into the tree.
Schwab asked for probation given Gatlin had no prior criminal history, took full responsibility for her crime and received a spotless report during her state prison evaluation. Throughout the court proceedings, Gatlin had been visibly shaken – at times unable to speak without bursting into tears. She read a short letter of apology on Friday. She was facing up to nine years in prison.
The Gatlins and Bravos are next-door neighbors, and the families have known each other for decades. Gatlin, 24, has a 7-year-old child. Bravo was 23.
“This is a tragedy that has ruined these families,” Schwab said.
The Bravo family, which attended the court proceedings carrying blown-up photos of their fallen relative, were not satisfied with the decision. They believe Gatlin was lying about everything and deserved jail time.
“If she couldn’t drive a stick shift, how did she get out of the parking lot?” Susanna Delgado Bravo, Rodrigo’s sister, said in an interview. “If you can’t drive a stick shift, the car won’t go. My other brother tried to drive (Rodrigo’s) car once, and he couldn’t get out of the driveway.”
Bravo said her brother and Gatlin were not actually a couple, but were seeing each other casually. She chanced to meet Gatlin after the accident and said she showed no remorse and did not attend her brother’s funeral, despite being asked to do so by the Bravo family.
“My (other) brother, he’s 11, and he thought (Rodrigo) was coming home,” Bravo said. “It wasn’t until we took him to the cemetery that he realized he wasn’t. Now, he refuses to sleep alone.”
Bravo said her sister, 15, is going to counseling because of the loss, and that her family, which consists of two parents and six surviving children, no longer feels comfortable in their home given the close proximity to the Gatlins.
A Bravo family friend, Ruby Banuelos, said the family will “serve a life sentence without” Rodrigo Bravo because of Gatlin’s actions.