Before Kayla Mendoza got behind the wheel, she sent a message on Twitter: “2 drunk 2 care.” Then she started driving 80 mph the wrong way on the Sawgrass Expressway in Florida and crashed into two best friends returning from a night out.
Police later said her blood-alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit when she killed Kaitlyn Ferrante and Marisa Catronio, both 21, back in 2013, according to the Associated Press. She also had traces of marijuana in her system, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. On Monday, she was sentenced to 24 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to two DUI manslaughter charges.
“This all may be my fault, but at the end of the day, I’m a human being just like everyone else,” she told the victims’ families, according to WSVN-TV. “I have a heart, and it aches everyday. The guilt is overwhelming. I want to speak about this accident with everyone so that I can prevent this from ever happening again.”
On Nov. 17, 2013, Mendoza, who was underage, had been out drinking with co-workers. She was a first-semester college kid, studying to be a teacher and working a sales job at T-Mobile. Court documents show she downed two “fish bowl size” margaritas and drove her Hyundai Sonata head-on into Ferrante’s Toyota Camry in Broward County, 20 miles from Fort Lauderdale. She didn’t have a driver’s license, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
Mendoza suffered head injuries and broke both legs, WSVN-TV reported. Catronio died at the scene. Ferrante died in a nearby hospital several days later. Mendoza has said she doesn’t remember it.
Over the past 18 months, Mendoza, now 22, has made national news partly because of her social media presence. She once called herself a “pothead princess” on Twitter, according to the Miami New Times. In the month leading up to the fatal crash, she tweeted that she was “drunk,” “baked,” “rolling a blunt in the airport parking lot” and “2 high 2 care.”
Those tweets have since been removed.
But Mendoza has said the controversial tweet — “2 drunk 2 care” — that she posted before the crash has been twisted. She said it wasn’t in reference to driving drunk; it was intended to grab her boyfriend’s attention because the two had recently been in an argument.
Earlier this year, she told the two victims’ families the accident was her fault and pleaded for forgiveness. “One mistake changed all of our lives, one stupid mistake, and I’m sorry,” she said, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
But neither were ready to forgive her.
“How do you forgive someone who ruined your life and your family’s life forever?” Catronio’s brother, Dustin Catronio, said in court during Mendoza’s sentencing, according to CBS Miami.
“You took away all those dreams,” Ferrante’s mother, Christine Ferrante, said. “You took the life of my precious daughter and you destroyed my family … My heart and soul are broken … I pass Kaitlyn’s room and it’s quiet and empty.”
Mendoza has been sentenced to 24 years in prison with an additional six years probation — which “feels like a lifetime” to her, her attorney Will Anderson said. And she will never be allowed to drive a vehicle again, according to news reports.
“My life has changed and I will never be the person I was before,” she said.