When Alexia Cina, driving drunk, and too fast, crashed into Katie Evans on Golden Valley Road in October 2017, killing the mother of six, it was a heartbreaking tragedy that reverberated through the community. It left devastating impacts on Katie Evans’ husband, their four sons and their premature newborn twin girls who were in the hospital at the time of the deadly crash.
The public reaction was swift.
Before Cina had the benefit of a trial, she was convicted in the court of public opinion. One local media outlet ran a headline labeling her as a drunk driver, before she had been convicted of the crime. People commenting on social media formed a virtual torch-bearing mob, barely stopping short of calling for her immediate execution.
As it turns out, Cina was indeed guilty. Maybe it seems moot, but it’s worth noting that, on whatever slippery slope we’re sliding upon, we’re chipping away at the presumption of innocence — the idea that judgment will be reserved until we have had a trial before a jury of our peers.
Cina has accepted responsibility for her crime. She did not speak in court, but her attorney told The Signal she was deeply remorseful for her actions, their impacts on the Evans family and on her own family, too. It does not excuse what she did, but by all accounts she accepts responsibility and is sincere in her sorrow and regret over what she has done. It was one extremely bad decision that cut a life short and inexorably altered numerous others.
Cina struck a plea agreement and on July 6 was sentenced to 10 years in prison for gross vehicular manslaughter. It was a sentence that seemed fair, even to the Evans family, who sought a sentence that would act as a deterrent against drunk driving, but would still allow Cina to have a life after prison.
That sentencing hearing is when we all were given a deeply emotional reminder of what it means to be a good human being, courtesy of Katie Evans’ husband Jacob.
This man, who had lost the love of his life, the mother of his six children, stood up at Cina’s sentencing to address the court in a victim’s impact statement, drawing upon his religious faith as he told the story of how he and Katie met (it was Katie’s dad who gave Jacob her phone number), their marriage and the four sons they were raising together. He talked of how Katie always wanted a little girl, and then the twins arrived to grant her wish, times two.
He talked about the night when he waited up for Katie to come home from being with the twins at the hospital, and when she didn’t show up, his desperate search for information into the wee hours of the morning, until a coroner’s official arrived to deliver the painful news.
When he finished telling the story of that fateful night, Jacob Evans also addressed the 21-year-old who had caused him such devastating pain: “Alexia, it is my hope that you will dedicate your life to making the world a better place; both because it will be good for the world and because it will be good for you.
“I understand that you have been tutoring in recent months and applaud you for that effort. Some may say that it is not enough; that it won’t make up for what you’ve done,” he said. “I encourage you to ignore those comments and press forward in the direction that a loving God would want you to take.
“As you fill your heart with caring for others, it might not bring Katie back to life, but it will bring life back to you.”
At a time when society seems all too quick to rush to judgment, when social media influencers act as if they are judge, jury and executioner, when our political discourse has reached unprecedented levels of hostility, it was refreshing and inspiring to hear what Jacob Evans had to say to Alexia Cina, the one person on this Earth that he would be the most justified in vilifying.
Rather than vilify, he forgave. He showed compassion. He treated Cina not as a monster, but as a human being, one who had made an awful, devastating decision, but was worthy of the opportunity to earn forgiveness, and even, at some point, to forgive herself.
It made so many other disputes of the day seem petty and inconsequential.