Crime & Courts

'I miss my mommy every day,' daughter of fatal DUI crash victim says at driver's sentencing hearing

Ryan Heineman
Ryan Heineman

A 9-year-old girl whose mother died in a 2016 crash sat on her aunt’s lap Wednesday as she spoke from a witness stand about how another man’s decision to drink and drive forever changed her life.

“I felt so sad. I cried, and I cried. I wanted my mommy back ...” the girl said at a sentencing hearing Wednesday. “I miss my mommy every day. ... I miss her reading to me. ... I miss my mommy’s cupcakes. She made them the best. ... She taught me to stay in the lines when we colored.”

Ryan Heineman was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison for aggravated driving under the influence in connection with the death of his neighbor and friend, Tanya M. McDonough. He must serve 85% of the prison term under Illinois truth in sentencing guidelines.

McDonough and Heineman were celebrating the woman’s 33rd birthday the day prosecutors said Heineman crashed his vehicle into a tree on Route 12 east of Sunset Road.

The victim-impact statement provided by the woman’s daughter left family in tears and prompted McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather to take a brief recess.

When she returned, the judge heard from Heineman’s high school-aged daughter. The girl told Prather she feared what would happen if her father went to prison.

“It is not just his future in your hands,” his daughter said. “It is mine as well.”

After the June 26 crash, Heineman was taken to the hospital and treated for injuries that were not life-threatening. He did not call 911 and said he has little to no memory of the crash. McDonough was pronounced dead at the scene.

Heineman’s blood-alcohol content was 0.150%, police have said.

McDonough’s mother, Cynthia McDonough, cried inconsolably throughout the sentencing hearing. The mother grieved the death of her son, 23-year-old Harley Villiard, only two years before the crash that killed Tanya McDonough.

“You took it all away from us when you decided to drive with her while you were intoxicated,” Cynthia McDonough told Heineman in court.

Heineman, who did not testify at trial, gave a brief statement in court Wednesday and apologized for “the pain the incident caused.”

“When I say I’m sorry, I’m not a random stranger,” Heineman said. “I was there in her life.”

Before the sentencing hearing began, Prather denied Heineman’s request for a new trial. After hearing family and attorneys on both sides Wednesday, Prather told Heineman she believed he’s “a good guy who made a bad decision.”

“There’s a life lost, and there’s a price to pay when that life is lost because of an illegal act,” Prather said.

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