UTAH STATE PRISON — It’s been eight years since Jonathan Bowers was killed in a crash caused by a drunken driver.
And his family still struggles with what happened.
“They say time heals all wounds. I guess that’s true to some extent. I don’t grieve like I did that first year after his death,” John Bowers, Jonthan’s father, said. “But the heartache and emptiness remain. And they will remain til the day I die.”
On May 22, 2011, about 6 a.m., Jonathan Bowers, 32, an emergency medical technician for Gold Cross Ambulance, was on his way to work and stopped at the intersection of 6200 South and 4015 West when a car traveling at a high rate of speed smashed into him. After the crash, Gabriel Guiterrez Perez got out of his car and ran.
Bowers died about a week later from extensive head injuries.
Perez pleaded guilty to automobile homicide driving under the influence. He was ordered to serve the sentences for each of his convictions consecutively. If he serves his full time, his sentence would expire in June 2027.
On Tuesday, Perez, now 39, went before a member of the Board of Pardons and Parole for the first time.
Bowers’ parents, John and Judi were also in attendance. In a recording of the hearing, both of Jonathan Bowers’ parents said they recognized that Perez did not intentionally kill their son, and that two families were suffering due to the tragic events. But while Judi Bowers said she would leave it up to the board to decide how much time Perez should serve, John Bowers did not hide his belief that Perez should serve his full sentence.
“He will deserve every single minute he spends behind bars. Even then, he will have won the lottery because he will still have life, and with that life he can start over. And that is far better, much more, than the nightmare he brought down on my son and my family,” he told board member Clark Harms, who conducted the hearing.
In his comments to the board, Bowers talked about cherished memories of his son. But there was also anger in his voice as he also talked about how Perez had several opportunities that night to stop drinking or simply not drive at all.
“All he wanted to do was get drunk and get his kicks,” Bowers said. “Over and over again that night he had chances to stop drinking. He knew all along what he was doing or about to do, and he was in fact too drunk to drive. ... My son paid for Mr. Perez’s recklessness.”
Judi Bowers did not show as much anger in her comments. In fact, she repeated several times that she had forgiven Perez, she was not angry with him, and she “never hated him.”
“I’m not going to be his judge. I’ll leave that up to the Lord. There will be a final judgment and if he hasn’t paid for his crime, he will eventually,” she said. “We all have to move on with our lives.”
Perez told the board he was sorry for what happened, even though he didn't remember hitting Jonathan Bowers or running from the scene after the crash.
“I do apologize for what I’ve done,” he said. “At the time I felt I was OK to drive.”
Perez said at that time, he started drinking more because of his divorce a year earlier.
“I know it doesn’t justify anything. ... I know it doesn’t change anything, because I made a poor choice and somebody paid for it. That was never my intention,” he said.
But Harms also pointed out to Perez that he has had several disciplinary violations since being in prison including for drug use, and he has yet to complete a long-term substance abuse treatment program while in prison.
“I just don’t see us ever considering a release until you’ve been able to complete a long-term residential substance abuse treatment program,” Harms said.
During the hearing, it was also noted that U.S. immigration officials had placed a detainer on Perez and he would be deported once he is released from prison. Perez said he has lived in the U.S. since he was a child, but he thinks his dad’s family still lives in Mexico.
“I never met them, but I’m pretty sure I can figure it out,” he said.