‘You Have a Debt to Pay': Woman Sentenced to 3 Years for Fleeing Deadly Vista DUI Crash

“Although you have been sentenced to prison for three years, you will eventually get out of prison. You have an obligation to not just live for you, but to live for Courtney. You have a debt to pay, frankly, a debt that can never be repaid," the judge said.

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A woman was sentenced to three years in a California prison for fleeing the scene of a deadly crash involving a pedestrian on a North County San Diego highway last November.

Courtney Dyar, 32, was killed while walking on the shoulder of westbound State Route 78 at Emerald Drive at 5:45 a.m. on Nov. 7, 2021. It’s unknown why she was on foot on the freeway.

Kanoelani Kirskey, 24, had a blood alcohol level of 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit, an hour after she crashed her white Volkswagon sedan, according to prosecutors. They also say she had been smoking marijuana prior to the collision.

Dyar's family was upset that Kirskey wasn't charged with vehicular manslaughter.

"This is a very heartbreaking situation that we are here for today," Judge James Simmons said after delivering the sentence. "I cannot sentence her for causing the death of Courtney. The only felony I can sentence her for is for fleeing the scene after she struck Courtney, which is a difference of a number of years. Legally I cannot sentence Miss Kirskey for causing Courtney’s death.”

Courtney Dyar's family is asking for witnesses to come forward with information that could lead to more severe charges, reports NBC 7's Artie Ojeda

Kirskey left the scene, and then returned with her mother, prosecutors said. The pair then left the scene a second time and called 911. She offered an apology to Dyar's family in court on Tuesday.

“I never wanted to run and hide, I should have made better choices. I knew there wasn’t anything I can do," she said.

Several of Kirskey's family members, including her mom, aunt and friends, were in court to support her. Kirskey has been free on bail during the last year and worked two jobs and was a caregiver, according to her attorney.

The prosecutor painted a different picture, stating Kirskey had numerous alternatives to drinking and driving high and drunk. She could have asked a friend for a ride and instead risked public safety, the prosecutor argued, adding that Kirskey twice leaving the scene of the accident made the case more egregious. 

Dyar also had a big group of supporters in the courtroom. Several people made victim impact statements, including an aunt and cousin.

“It’s been almost a year since I lost my cousin, I flew out with my mom every court date hoping there would be an end to this. I still wait for her voice at dinners. There will never be an end to this. I will see Courtney in everything I do," Terese Coker said.

There was a chance Kirskey was going to be put on probation instead of serving prison time, an idea the victim's parents couldn't comprehend.

Dyar’s parents, Vicki and Daniel Dyar also addressed the judge and courtroom.

“When people say they can’t imagine what it's like to lose a child, they are right,” said Vicki Dyar. “We miss Courtney’s laughter, her silliness. This is the first year she did not make me a birthday cake for as long as I can remember. It doesn’t get any easier. The facts are clear. This defendant has a history of alcohol abuse.”

Video testimonies from several of Dyar's friends and family members were played in the courtroom. 

After hearing all of the victim impact statements, Judge Simmons decided to sentence Kirskey to three years in state prison.

“I was moved by the stories of Courtney’s life. Twenty-seven years is way too short, but you were extremely blessed to have Courtney for 27 years," Simmons told Dyar's family. "As a parent, I cannot imagine having to bury my own child. That is a parent’s worst nightmare. I can’t imagine the pain and suffering you are going through right now. Courtney was such a loving and giving person.”

Judge Simmons then addressed Kirskey.

“Although you have been sentenced to prison for three years, you will eventually get out of prison. You have an obligation to not just live for you, but to live for Courtney. You have a debt to pay, frankly, a debt that can never be repaid. My hope for you is that you can share your story with others. You will define your life by the actions you take.”

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