BELLEFONTE — A sign in the kitchen of Wayne and Annie Royer reads, We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.
Since the Royers lost their son, Kyle, 24, in an early morning crash on Interstate 80 last year when his dump truck was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer, theyve been missing a big part of their lives.
That was part of Wayne Royers somber message to a judge Thursday morning during the sentencing of Cenk Esenbel, 37, of Flushing, N.Y., the tractor-trailer driver who caused the crash in Marion Township. Esenbel, who hadnt slept in 20 hours, was driving a truck with faulty brakes and an overweight load when he crashed Oct. 20 on his way to Chicago.
In what Judge Bradley P. Lunsford called a difficult decision, Esenbel was sentenced to 15 to 30 months in a state prison. Lunsford was frank with Esenbel, telling him the crash could have been avoided. Esenbels attorney, Karen Muir, had been hoping to get him paroled having served 255 days in the county jail with two years probation to follow.
Prosecutor Crystal Hundt wanted Esenbel to serve two to four years behind bars.
In making his decision, Lunsford asked the Royer family what they would consider justice. But none of them asked for a harsh punishment.
Erin Royer, his sister, said shed miss the sounds her brother made with his dog as they were getting settled into bed, because her room is next to his in their parents house.
I can deal with it every day, but I cant talk about it, she told the judge, and shortly after turned to Esenbel, saying, I do appreciate your apology, thank you.
She said she could live with Esenbel being released on the time hes already served because shed never have to see him again.
Wayne Royer, the father, said the same it didnt matter if it were one day or 20 years, it wouldnt change the fact that theyd lost their son.
Esenbel came to court Thursday having entered an open guilty plea to all the charges meaning a sentencing agreement hadnt been reached and it was up to the judge to determine his fate.
Muir told the judge that Esenbel had cooperated from the moment after the crash happened, was sorry for Kyle Royers death and opted for a plea so the Royer family didnt have to bear the pain of a trial.
Mr. Esenbel has to wake up every morning and look in the mirror knowing he caused the death of another person, Muir said.
With several members of the Royer family behind her in tears, Hundt, the prosecutor, said the Royers get up every day knowing the loss of a child, a brother, a grandson and a friend.
Hundt argued that the circumstances surrounding the crash could have been prevented. She said Esenbel had been driving for 20 hours without rest, that his truck was 6,000 pounds overweight and that its brakes were faulty. Esenbel was also driving with a suspended New York license because he didnt respond to a citation for driving while using a cellphone in his home state.
Lunsford said he wanted to give Esenbel a sentence that would have him serve out his sentence in the county jail. But he changed his mind and opted for 12 to 24 months on the count of accidents involving death followed by three to six months on the count of homicide by vehicle.
Esenbel will have to pay more than $1,000 in fines.
Muir was puzzled by the state prison sentence and wasnt sure if her client would appeal. She said Esenbel was relieved the family accepted his apology.
District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller praised the family for showing amazing grace and forgiveness.
While no sentence ever seems adequate in these cases, we are pleased that the judge sentenced him to an aggravated sentence in light of the reckless choices he made, which caused this death, she said.