Ramirez Sentenced to 40 Years in Fatal Wreck that Killed Family

An illegal alien, accused in the deaths of a Franklin County family the day after Thanksgiving last year will spend the next 40 years in prison.

On Friday, Marco Hernandez Ramirez pled guilty in Hart County Superior Court to three counts of vehicular homicide in addition to other charges.

Ramirez had originally been indicted on three counts of felony murder, but Northern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Parks White said Friday, Ramirez’ employer had changed his testimony about whether the Guatemalen was allowed to drive the company van.

“During the course of depositions, the owner of the van admitted that he had given Mr. Ramirez permission to drive the van and it was not stolen,” White explained. “So we could not pursue the felony murder counts. We were forced to drop those.

The wreck happened November 28th, the day after Thanksgiving on SR77 Extension, commonly known as the Lavonia Highway.

Authorities say, Ramirez was driving his employer’s van drunk headed south on SR77 when he crossed the center line near the Lavonia Speedway and struck the vehicle driven by 48-year old Jerry Russell Cannon, head-on.

Cannon, along with his 32-year old wife Kathryn and their 5-year old daughter were killed instantly.

Ramirez was injured and hospitalized for a time.

In December, a Hart County Grand Jury indicted Ramirez on three counts of felony murder, six counts of homicide by vehicle, two counts of DUI, one count of theft by taking, one count of reckless driving, as well as driving on the wrong side of the road, open container, and failure to wear a seatbelt.

White said over the course of the past year, Ramirez, who was in the country illegally from Guatamala at the time of that fatal wreck, has expressed remorse, but it was not enough to keep Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Malcomb from handing down a stiff sentence.

“The non-negotiated plea gave Judge Malcomb the authority to sentence him to whatever he deemed appropriate,” White explained. “The judge sentenced him (Ramirez) to 43 years in prison with 40 to serve and three years on probation; a very appropriate sentence in light of the acts by Mr. Hernandez Ramirez.”

White noted at the time of the wreck, Ramirez’ blood alcohol level was .27.

Ramirez had been deported once before, but had re-entered the country illegally and was working for a local nursery company in Hart County at the time of the fatal wreck.