Michael Scavone was sentenced Friday to serve seven to 16 years in state prison for killing triathlete Paula Jones in a DUI crash, but her father, John Lewis, said he and his family are “doing the life sentence.”
“There’s no closure for something like this,” Lewis said. “This is just a horrendous thing that happened to our family. You go to bed thinking about it and you wake up thinking about it and it never goes away.”
Scavone, 51, of Harveys Lake, pleaded guilty before Luzerne County Judge David W. Lupas on Friday to vehicular homicide as well as two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol and one count of accidents involving death or injury.
Scavone struck and killed Jones, 31, as she jogged around Harveys Lake on June 7 last year. Prosecutors say Scavone, a repeat DUI offender, had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.214 percent, more than two hours after the crash.
A weeping Scavone told the courtroom, “I never meant to hurt anybody. I’m truly sorry.”
Lupas told Scavone it’s unfortunate he didn’t learn from his past mistakes.
Scavone was previously charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in at least five prior incidents and was arrested in 2009 for operating a boat while drunk.
Jones’ emotional family members gathered in the courtroom Friday and her mother, Inez Lewis, addressed the court.
Lewis said the loss her family has experienced is indescribable and has changed their lives forever. Scavone, she said, “has no idea what he put us through.”
Jones of Factoryville is survived by her husband Brian and their 14-year-old daughter, Kayla.
“She was an amazing mother,” Lewis said. “I loved her so much.”
She and her husband and Jones’ father, John Lewis, joined District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis in addressing the media Friday following the guilty plea and sentencing.
John Lewis said more people should be aware of the consequences of drunk driving and how it turns families’ lives upside down.
“I just hope that everyone understands not to drink and drive,” Inez Lewis said, fighting back tears. “The effects are really devastating. To lose a child to a drunk driver is unbearable and difficult for all of us.”
She described her daughter as a beautiful, spirited and kind person.
“She would do anything for anyone,” she said. “She was giving. If anyone ever needed anything, she was there for them.”
Friday’s proceeding was originally scheduled to be a bail hearing, but attorneys were able to reach a plea agreement, Salavantis said.
While Scavone admitted his guilt and apologized for killing Jones, Salavantis said it is still devastating for her family.
“There is a hole that will never be filled again,” Salavantis said. “This has been a very difficult case, a very heart-wrenching case — to lose such a beautiful woman. But we had a great sentence today and he will be facing a lot of time in prison.”
Harveys Lake Police Chief Charles Musial said he is glad it’s finally over and there is justice for the family.
“I’m glad he came to his senses of accepting the fact that he did wrong,” Musial said. “He finally let the family know that he’s taking responsibility for taking their loved one.”
With the arrival of Memorial Day weekend, Musial cautioned others not to drink and drive.
“Michael Scavone never intended to hit Paula Jones that day but because of his impairment, he did,” Musial said. “Drinking and driving will always turn into tragedy.”
Jones’ husband, Brian, has filed a wrongful death suit against American Legion Post 672 in Dallas as well as businesses and people associated with Grotto Pizza at Harveys Lake. Jones contends they violated state liquor laws by serving alcohol to Scavone after he was visibly drunk and is seeking damages.
Attorney Neil O’Donnell, who is representing the estate of Paula Jones, said the civil litigation is underway and they are moving forward with depositions. He said they will pursue “the best form of civil justice that we can in that litigation.”
Scavone’s acknowledgement of his guilt was “a significant step in our effort to get justice,” O’Donnell said.
“I’m never sure you achieve complete closure,” O’Donnell said. “Paula Jones was a wonderful woman, a mother, a friend, a daughter, a wife and everyone in her life misses her every day.”
* “Pedal for Paula,” a charity bike ride in memory of Paula Jones, will be held Sunday, July 24 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. It will start at the Westmoreland Business Center in Shavertown and complete a 48-mile loop throughout the Back Mountain area outside of Harveys Lake. Proceeds from the ride will be donated to Catholic Social Services Drug and Alcohol Awareness Program and Scranton YMCA. The cost is $30 per person and registration can be completed at https://www.bikereg.com/pedal-for-paula-memorial-bike-ride until July 23 at 5 p.m.