In a tear-filled courtroom, a Marshalltown man was sentenced Monday to the maximum sentence for killing a 14-year-old boy last fall.
Derick Gaylord Bear, 19, received a 10-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine for vehicular homicide. On Sept. 6, 2012, Bear was driving an all-terrain vehicle along Marion Street while carrying four passengers, including Marshalltown High School freshman Mario Ortega. The vehicle, which was designed for two passengers, hit a curb causing Ortega to fall out.
He died eight days later.
Ortega's mother, Ronda Lovan, spoke in a halting voice Monday, telling Judge James Ellefson that she would never get to see her son grow up.
"Without him, there will always be a gap," Lovan said. "It should have never been like this."
Lovan, dressed in black and accompanied by several friends and relatives, also held up a posterboard filled with photos showing a smiling Ortega fishing with friends and playing football. Below the photos was a message, scrawled in black marker: "We want our baby brother back."
Ortega befriended Bear, 18 at the time of the accident, and Assistant County Attorney Paul Crawford said Ortega was enamored with Bear's "toys" including the ATV.
Bear had been warned by Marshalltown police about driving the ATV on city streets, a moving violation, and less than two weeks before the fatal accident, Bear was charged with eluding after evading police on his ATV.
That was one of several convictions Bear received for traffic offenses, including one from December when Bear, who had told the court he was taking a family trip to Washington state, was arrested for driving while barred in Hawaii.
Bear has also twice been convicted of possession of a controlled substance, all of which Ellefson said reflected a "general disregard for the law" compelling him to levy the maximum sentence.
"He knows he has things to address," said David Pargulski, Bear's attorney.
Pargulski said he'd noticed a change in Bear since first meeting him and felt Bear would "apply himself while incarcerated."
Bear, wearing an untucked, gray button-down shirt, spoke briefly Monday, apologizing for Ortega's death.
"I'm very sorry for your loss," he said to Ortega's family.
Bear traded long hugs with sobbing relatives before leaving in the company of a sheriff's deputy.