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Linda man sentenced for killing bicyclist

The Appeal-Democrat: Linda man sentenced for killing bicyclist

Sister of victim calls 11-year sentence insufficient
November 30, 2009 12:20:00 PM

By Rob Young/Appeal-Democrat

Andrew Louis Cornett seemed genuinely remorseful for killing a Linda woman on a bicycle while driving under the influence of drugs, a Yuba County Probation Department officer wrote in a report,

"Unfortunately this realization comes ... much too late," the officer, Jeffrey E. Pask, wrote about Cornett, who was sentenced today in Yuba County Superior Court to 11 years, four months in prison in connection with the May death of Lucinda Gillis.

Gillis, 32, and her identical twin sister, Lucretia Boyman, were biking at Feather River Boulevard and North Beale Road in Linda when Cornett ran a red light and hit Gillis. She died in an ambulance on the way to Yuba County Airport to meet a medical helicopter.

Cornett had two previous convictions for driving under the influence and a long record of other crimes, most involving drugs or alcohol, the report said.

In the pickup Cornett was driving, law enforcement officers found three hypodermic syringes, two spoons containing drug residue and a tourniquet. Cornett admitted injecting Oxycontin, and a urinalysis detected morphine, cocaine and a number of other drugs, the report said.

Cornett was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded no contest to a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated under an agreement with prosecutors, who said law enforcement’s handling of the investigation left it doubtful whether jurors would have convicted him on the murder charge.

Before being sentenced, Cornett, who was in leg and arm chains, rose and faced Gillis’ family and said he thinks about the crime every day.

"My suffering is minimal compared to that of others. I want to say how very sorry I am," the tearful Cornett said.

Cornett, who turned 25 a week ago, will have to serve at least half the sentence, according to prosecutors.

In remarks outside the courtroom, Boyman called the sentence insufficient.

"This is just wrong. She didn’t deserve to die like that. I’m sick about it," she said.

The hearing seemingly left Deputy District Attorney Teresa Sydow, and even Judge Debra Givens, on the verge of tears.

Givens accepted the plea agreement but said "evidentiary problems" were the only reason for it.

"In a perfect world there would be perfect justice. We do our best to do that," Sydow told the court.

Prosecutors said officers failed to check Cornett’s arms for fresh needle marks. No blood sample was taken and the urinalysis was not done until five hours after the accident. It would have been impossible to prove Cornett had not ingested the drugs during the 43 minutes he was on the run after the accident, they said.

Cornett took the pickup he was driving from his father, Duane Cornett, without permission.

"On behalf of my family, we have the utmost sympathy for (Gillis’ family)," said the elder Cornett, weeping. "My family is also a victim."

Gillis had two sons, ages 13 and 16. Another of her sisters, Jovina Titman of Tennessee, took custody of the boys.

In a letter to the court, Titman called Cornett "a man who is such a coward he couldn’t even stop and call 911, he couldn’t even help her after he killed her."

"I wish this man could see these two boys cry at night because they miss their mother. ... or see my cry at night because I have to fill Lucinda’s place as a mother and I know I could never fill her shoes," Titman wrote.

In their letter to the court, sons Michael and Dominic wrote about their mother, "She always said how much she loved us and she didn’t know what she would do without us. But that is how (we) feel every day and we hope that she didn’t die for nothing."