A San Diego man apologized in court for the murder of a tow truck driver but the victim's sons described the apology as "hollow words."
A judge sentenced Michael Gilbert Gray to 25 years to life for his role in the death of Fred Griffith. The tow truck driver was on the side of State Route 52 when he was struck and killed in February 2017.
At the sentencing hearing Friday, Gray read a statement accepting responsibility for his actions.
"I am truly sorry for the death of Mr. Griffith," he said, directing comments to the victim's sons. "If you guys have any hate in your heart towards me, don’t let it dictate your life."
"Just be strong and do good things in your life," he said.
Griffith, 55, an employee of RoadOne San Diego, lived in Santee and raised his sons as a single dad.
Michael Griffith, 21, David Griffith, 18 and Joe Griffith, 15, attended the sentencing but were not impressed by Gray's statement.
“I think they are just hollow words,” said David Griffith, adding that he thought it was Gray's attempt to save face.
Michael Griffith, who said the family had a happy life in their Santee home before their father's death, said he believes the sentencing will be the first step toward healing for him and his brothers.
Gray, 50, pleaded guilty in August to second-degree murder with two serious felony priors.
He drove with a .24 percent blood-alcohol level when he drove off State Route 52 and onto the shoulder, colliding with Griffith who was on the side of the highway.
Gray fled the scene but an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer saw the crash and pulled Gray over.
Griffith worked for more than 20 years in the local towing industry.
"He spent all of his days working, doing his best to bring home enough money to let us scrape by," Michael Griffith said of his dad.
Several days after Griffith's death, more than 100 tow truck and flatbed carriers from across San Diego County created a tow truck and emergency vehicle procession.