Perhaps it was seeing Justin Draper's 1-year-old boy scream for his daddy in the courtroom.
Or that four years have gone by.
Or maybe even that "angels were in the room."
Whatever it was, something changed in Jane Draycott's heart on Friday during Draper's sentencing hearing. And it happened right in the middle of her speech before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Warren Granville.
Draycott, a Houston firefighter, was as bitter and angry as ever about the September 24, 2006 collision near Bell Road and Tatum Boulevard when she flew here with her husband last week for the hearing.
Draper had been driving that fateful night. Police say he was going at least 70 mph in a 45 mph zone when a Jeep Cherokee turned in front of him. The crash brought utter carnage: Among the dead were Draycott's 17-year-old daughter, Amanda Jane Franklin, who'd been riding with Draper, and two teens in the Cherokee, Michael Foley, 18, and Foley's 15-year-old girlfriend, Jelena Nokeo.
Draper, then 18, and another of his teenage passengers, Brittany Micko, were hurt badly (but have since healed.) Prosecutors didn't bring charges of manslaughter and aggravated assault against Draper for three years, causing anguish for the victims' families.
In August, Draycott made headlines in Texas after being picked up for shoplifting at a Walmart while in uniform. She said she was drunk and "out of her head," having just been told by a Maricopa prosecutor that Draper had pleaded guilty and might not receive any prison time.
Just prior to the hearing, Draycott met with Aaron Harder, the deputy county attorney in the case, and was "adamant" that he push for at least one year for each dead teen. When it came Draycott's turn to stand before the judge on Friday, she intended to argue the same.
Yet after describing her daughter to the court, something happened, Draycott says. She found the forgiveness that had been missing these past four years.
"I looked at Justin and said 'I'll never know the grandchildren that Amanda would have given me, and I won't get to see her through her milestones. But you know what? I can't do this. I can't allow your children to be without their father. I can't ask for the judge to take you from your family.' And I told the judge, I don't want him to go to jail.'"
Granville could have given Draper up to 11 years. Instead, he sentenced Draper to six months in jail and four years' probation. He'll be allowed a work furlough, but will spend the holidays in jail. After he gets out, he's supposed to spend time talking to groups of high school students about the tragedy and how it occurred.
In forgiving Draper, Draycott says she feels like a "new person." And today -- no kidding -- we could hear it in her voice. She sounds stronger and more together than in previous conversations we've had with her. Maybe there is something to that whole forgiveness thing.
We're pretty sure not everyone feels the same way as Draycott, though. She says the families of other victims were upset at Draper's sentence -- which, to be frank, we find more understandable than Draycott's epiphany.
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