Woman sentenced to five years for Skokie crash that killed boy
Hanin Goma, 23, of Skokie, was sentenced to five years in prison on Wednesday for a May 2012 crash that killed an 8-year-old boy out for a bike ride. | Courtesy Cook County Sheriff's office
Updated: April 29, 2013 9:58AM
A Skokie woman accused of striking and killing an 8-year-old boy while she was driving high was sentenced last week to five years in prison and two years supervision.
Authorities said Hanin Goma, 23, struck and killed Carter Vo, a Madison School second grader, while the boy was riding his bike on the sidewalk near Main Street and St. Louis Avenue in Skokie on May 21.
Goma, of the 5000 block of Wright Terrace in Skokie, admitted to smoking marijuana the day of the crash. Blood tests also showed marijuana and amphetamines in her system, authorities said.
Following emotional testimony March 20 from the victim’s family, as well as Goma and her family, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Lauren Gottainer Edidin could have sentenced the defendant to probation or three to 14 years in jail, with at least 85 percent time served.
“These are the most tragic cases we get as judges,” Edidin said. “I cannot put into words what a tragic case this is. The effect on (the victim’s family) is unimaginable.”
Goma pleaded guilty last month to one felony count of aggravated DUI resulting in death, and one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of drugs.
Traveling south on St. Louis Avenue while trying to turn left on Main Street, Goma allegedly hit an eastbound vehicle, losing control of her car. She then struck the boy and dragged him and his bicycle about 150 feet before colliding with a parked car, authorities say.
Nho Vo, the victim’s father, had difficulty last week getting through the statement he read in a Skokie courtroom.
He recounted how Vo asked his grandfather to go out for a bike ride after school that spring day and then never came home.
“When he died, all of us who knew him, we all died that day,” said Nho Vo, who had to back away a couple of times.
A letter from the grieving father was also read in court and described Carter Vo as “full of energy and life,” “creative and artistic” with an infectious smile and the desire to be the center of attention.
“He was my hope, my dreams, the proudest accomplishment in my life,” Nho Vo wrote.
Nho Vo later said he visits his son’s grave site every day and delivers a brief prayer.
Hanin Goma sobbed loudly during the hearing, her glasses pushed up and her hands covering her eyes.
“I can only imagine what you’re going through,” she said in deep sobs in an apology to the family. She said she feels “shame, guilt, pain and heartache” every day.
“You have reason to hate me,” Goma told the Vos. “I hope one day you can find a way to forgive me.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Cathy Crowley argued that Goma’s criminal history should be considered. She recounted several cases where the defendant was charged with retail theft and possession of marijuana. In 2008, Crowley said, she was charged with criminal damage to property in an incident at a gas station where she allegedly threw merchandise on the floor, damaging some of it, and then fled.
Crowley said Goma violated conditions of her supervision several times and didn’t show up for hearings or drug treatment.
Following her fatal car crash last spring, the prosecutor said, she was allowed to be at home on electronic monitoring and was prohibited from consuming alcohol. She violated those terms, Crowley said, and has been in jail ever since then.
Goma’s lawyer, Michael Goggin, said that his client was not charged with reckless homicide in this case and insisted she has real and deep remorse. He said that Goma has never been convicted of a felony before.
Goma suffered from a serious blood disorder as a child and had a bone marrow transplant, he said. Despite having issues with marijuana, he said, she was getting her life in order and had been at work the day of the crash.
According to Nho Vo, the five-year sentence was the same amount of prison time that Goma had been offered in a plea agreement earlier this year. It was pulled off the table when Goma failed to make a decision.
Edidin said she took into consideration though that the defendant has been dealing with her drug issues in jail and has been a leader in a justice program there.
The Vos were in court last week – presumably for the last time in this case – with a new addition to their family, baby Secilia Vo who was born Feb. 23.
Sharon Johnson, a victim advocate for The Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists who has been supporting the Vos, said she was disappointed with the sentencing and couldn’t help think about the brother the Vos’ new little girl will never know.
“It should have been more time,” she said. “She put this family through torture. She’ll get out and move on with her life but this family will suffer forever.”