Dedicated to the memory of Lori and Kayla Donohue

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Kayla and Lori

 

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January 23, 2010

Harrison firm gives award in memory of Southeast mom killed by drunken driver

By Marcela Rojas • mrojas@lohud.com

She was called a "tough cookie" but with a "heart of gold" and a penchant for the color purple.

Those were some of the descriptions colleagues gave of Lori Donohue Friday at Dorian Drake International's company luncheon at the Renaissance Westchester Hotel where an employee service award in her name was presented to a co-worker and close friend.

Donohue, 37, worked for the Harrison-based export management company for 17 years before she was struck and killed last June, along with her 8-year-old daughter, Kayla, by a drunken driver who was in the country illegally . Mother and daughter were walking out of the little girl's dance class in Brewster.

"She was tough in a strong way. She was always willing to do the tough jobs and not afraid to tell you what she thought," said group manager Ed Pysa, who reminisced about her one day walking into his office and asking him "What's wrong? You look miserable."

"Ultimately, she wanted you to be happy," he said. "She wanted to know what was wrong so that she could find a way to make you happy."

Dorian Drake established the annual "Lori J. Donohue Circle of Excellence Award," company President Ed Dorian, Jr., said, to keep her memory and spirit alive and to commemorate her strong work ethic and team spirit. The Southeast mother of two worked as an inside sales manager for the company's industrial and environmental group.

"She was a great teammate. She was always there for you," said Dorian Jr. "She had a commitment to giving great service."

The award was presented to corporate Controller Robin Wallace, who, in addition to working with Donohue, shared lunch with her every work day and was her bowling partner, she said. A tearful Wallace said she was so honored to receive the award.

"Lori would always want us to remember the good times and to never be afraid to wear purple," Wallace said. "Lori is a loving, honest, hardworking person. I could stand up here all day talking about Lori because I loved her."

Donohue's parents, John and Anita Luhrs, attended the banquet, visibly moved by the support. Earlier, Dorian Jr. mentioned that the company, through staff contributions and other donations, had raised close to $40,000 for Donohue's 5-year-old son, Christopher's college fund.

"It's a special honor. Just to see the outpouring of love you had for our daughter and Bob's wife is absolutely amazing," John Luhrs said. "I look up at that award and see Lori's picture and it warms my heart. Robin, I think you're very deserving of that award."

On Jan. 13, Luhrs, 70, of Bethel, Conn., gave a victim impact statement at the sentencing of his daughter's killer, Conses Garcia-Zacarias, saying "our hearts are absolutely broken — no, our hearts have been ripped out." Garcia-Zacarias, who was convicted on two counts of vehicular homicide, received the maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in state prison.

Robinanne Wallace, the controller for Dorian Drake International in Harrison, poses with John and Anita Luhrs, the parents of Lori Donohue, after receiving an award in her name, during a meeting and luncheon at the Renaissance Westchester Hotel, Jan. 22, 2010. Donohue, who worked at the company was killed in June 2009. ( Mark Vergari / The Journal News )

 

John Luhrs, the father of Lori Donohue, speaks during a luncheon for Dorian Drake International in Harrison, at the Renaissance Westchester Hotel, Jan. 22, 2010. Luhrs daughter Lori Donohue, who worked at the company was killed in June 2009. ( Mark Vergari / The Journal News )

 

( Mark Vergari / The Journal News )

 

 ( Mark Vergari / The Journal News ) 

 

( Mark Vergari / The Journal News )

 

Robinanne Wallace, the controller for Dorian Drake International in Harrison, gets emotional as she speaks about her friend and colleague Lori Donohue, after receiving an award in her name, during a meeting and luncheon at the Renaissance Westchester Hotel, Jan. 22, 2010. Donohue, who worked at the company was killed in June 2009. ( Mark Vergari / The Journal News )

 

Anita and John Luhrs, the parents of Lori Donohue, listen as Robinanne Wallace, the controller for Dorian Drake International in Harrison speaks, after receiving an award in Lori's name, during a meeting and luncheon at the Renaissance Westchester Hotel, Jan. 22, 2010. Donohue, who worked at the company was killed in June 2009. ( Mark Vergari / The Journal News )

 

( Mark Vergari / The Journal News )

January 13, 2010

Drunk driver gets maximum sentence in Brewster mother/daughter fatal

By Terence Corcoran • tcorcora@lohud.com

CARMEL — An illegal immigrant who had no license and a blood-alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit when he plowed into and killed a Southeast mother and daughter received the maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison today.

Conses Garcia-Zacarias, 35, who has been held at the Putnam County jail since the June 8 fatalities, pleaded guilty in November to two counts of vehicular homicide in the deaths of Lori Donohue, 37, and her 8-year-old daughter, Kayla. The second-grader and her mother were walking out of the little girl's dance class at Seven Stars School of Performing Arts in Brewster when Garcia-Zacarias mowed them down with a pickup truck.

The act instantly took away half of the Donohue family, leaving Robert Donohue and his 5-year-old son, Christopher, grieving for the wife and mother, sister and daughter they lost.

"Explaining to my 5-year-old son that he can never hug or kiss his mother and sister was the most difficult thing I've ever done," Donohue told the court today.

Friends and family members filled four of the six rows in the Putnam County Courthouse. Lori Donohue's father, John Luhrs, 70, of Bethel, Conn. placed photos of his daughter and granddaughter on the prosecutor's table, looked up at Putnam County Court Judge James Rooney before sitting down and saying, "Your honor: A parent's worse nightmare."

Lori Donohue grew up in Yonkers and rose through the ranks at Dorian Drake International Inc. in Harrison where she worked as a sales manager. Kayla attended John F. Kennedy Elementary School, played softball and swam. She was a Girl Scout and had been collecting cookies to send to the troops in Iraq when she was killed.

Kayla Donohue was pronounced dead at the scene while Lori Donohue was flown to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla where she died.

Their deaths saddened and outraged the community and refocused an ongoing debate about illegal immigration, drinking and driving and the hiring of undocumented workers. Garcia-Zacarias worked on horse farms in Florida and New York and the F-350 Ford pickup truck he was driving that night was registered to Valerie Renihan, a horse trainer who also leased the house on Tonetta Lake Road in Southeast where Garcia-Zacarias and several other men were living.

On June 8, police say Garcia-Zacarias sped down the wrong side of Brewster's Main Street around 6:30 p.m. and barrelled through a T-shaped intersection at routes 6 and 22. The truck crossed the narrow parking area dividing the road from the dance school building and ran over Lori and Kayla Donohue as other horrified parents, children and instructors stood nearby.

Through an interpreter, Garcia-Zacarias expressed remorse today and talked about how his actions have hurt his own family.

"I apologize to the family and I ask forgiveness. It was not my intention and it's something that could happen to any of us," he said. "I ask them to forgive me. I have my two daughters over there who are also suffering because of this."

Garcia-Zacarias will serve his sentences on the two counts of vehicular homicide concurrently, or at the same time, as stipulated by the law, Rooney said today.

"Do not look to me for forgiveness ," Rooney told him in imposing the maximum. "God may grant you mercy, Mr. Zacarias, but this court will not."

Garcia-Zacarias faces deportation to his native Guatemala after serving his time in prison.

 

Photos of Lori and Kayla Donohue sit on a table during the sentencing for Conses Garcia-Zacarias, at the Putnam County Courthouse in Carmel Jan. 13, 2010. ( Frank Becerra Jr. / The Journal News )

 

Lori Donohues father John Luhrs speaks outside the courthouse, after the sentencing for Conses Garcia-Zacarias, at the Putnam County Courthouse in Carmel Jan. 13, 2010. ( Frank Becerra Jr. / The Journal News )

 

Family and friends of Lori and Kayla Donohue pack the courtroom during the sentencing for Conses Garcia-Zacarias, at the Putnam County Courthouse in Carmel Jan. 13, 2010. ( Frank Becerra Jr. / The Journal News )

 

Conses Garcia-Zacarias is led away by a sheriff deputy, after being sentenced by Judge James Rooney in the death of Lori and Kayla Donohue, at the Putnam County Courthouse in Carmel Jan. 13, 2010. ( Frank Becerra Jr. / The Journal News )

 

Family and friends of Lori and Kayla Donohue pack the courtroom during the sentencing for Conses Garcia-Zacarias, at the Putnam County Courthouse in Carmel Jan. 13, 2010. ( Frank Becerra Jr. / The Journal News )

 

 

From left, Conses Garcia-Zacarias speaks through his interpreter Marta Fagundo, during his sentencing in the death of Lori and Kayla Donohue, at the Putnam County Courthouse in Carmel Jan. 13, 2010. ( Frank Becerra Jr. / The Journal News )

 

Lori Donohues father John Luhrs reads a Victim Impact Statement, during the sentencing for Conses Garcia-Zacarias, at the Putnam County Courthouse in Carmel Jan. 13, 2010. ( Frank Becerra Jr. / The Journal News )

 

 

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The New York Times
 
November 23, 2009
Editorial

Cracking Down on Drunken Driving

The national effort to reduce death and injuries from drunken driving has received a major boost from New York State. Gov. David Paterson signed a law that made New York among the first states to make it a felony to drive while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle. The new law also made New York one of a dozen states to require all convicted drunken drivers to use an ignition interlock device that prevents them from driving their cars if they are drunk.

The successful push for harsher drunken-driving penalties followed two highly publicized crashes in which children were killed while traveling with adults who had been drinking. In July, a Long Island woman driving the wrong way on Westchester’s Taconic State Parkway killed her 2-year-old daughter and three young nieces, in addition to the three men in the oncoming vehicle. The driver, who also died, had a blood alcohol content more than double the legal limit, and had marijuana in her system.

Last month, an 11-year-old girl, Leandra Rosado, was killed after the mother of one of her friends flipped her car on the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan while she was, authorities said, intoxicated. The new law is named Leandra’s Law and owes much to the intense lobbying campaign waged by her grieving father, Lenny Rosado.

With his help, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other supporters of the bill were able to overcome initial resistance from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who sought to water down the bill by making drunken driving with a child in the car a felony only for drivers with a blood alcohol level far above the legal limit.

Under the new measure, drivers convicted of being drunk while carrying passengers 15 years or younger could face up to four years in prison.

New York’s embrace of interlocks for everyone convicted of drunken driving follows by just a month California’s enactment of a similarly strict interlock pilot program. It is smart public policy.

Most people convicted of driving under the influence continue to drive even after their licenses are suspended. A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit group financed by auto insurers, found that repeat drunken driving offenses dropped 65 percent among those with interlock devices.

Beyond reducing alcohol-related crashes in New York, Albany’s toughening of penalties for drunken driving should prompt other states to follow suit.