DENVER — No matter the weather, Coloradans are always traveling along I-70. But on April 25, 2019, the highway connecting the state came to a halt following a crash caused by a semi-truck driver killed who killed four people and injured at least six others.
Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24; Doyle Harrison, 61; William "Bill" Bailey, 67; and Stanley Politano, 69, died that day.
“We actually went down there that night to try to find him. And that was probably, probably one of the worst nights of my life," said Bill Bailey's niece, Amy Bailey. “He was the best uncle in the world, honestly."
The driver, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, was sentenced to 110 years in prison, after being found guilty on four counts of vehicular homicide and six counts of first-degree assault, among other charges.
"They [first responders] had never seen anything like this before. The only thing that came close was being in a war. It was that bad," Amy recalled.
She said the last two weeks have been as difficult, emotionally, as the days following the initial crash. The family has watched as a swarm of social media posts, petitions, and rallies call for a lighter sentence for Aguilera-Mederos.
“Since the sentencing date, when all the social media stuff has come back up, has been extremely hard. In fact, you know, without getting too emotional, it kind of ruined our Christmas... To try to fight something emotionally like that, that is so close to you, and having so many people who have no idea what they’re talking about taking over the narrative was very painful," said Duane Bailey, who's older brother was Bill Bailey.
The judge in Aguilera-Mederos' case was set to reconsider the sentence on Jan. 13, when the prosecution planned on asking for a sentence in the range of 20-30 years.
“Nobody wants him to spend the rest of his life in jail," said Duane, who does not believe the 110-year sentence is fair. "We did not hear that number until minutes before he walked in the courtroom on sentencing day. They had been telling us 50 to 60 years, honestly beforehand, and I thought that was too long, even then.”
Duane said in meetings between victim's family members and prosecutors, the 20-30 year range was generated.
“It’s turned the point where people think he's the victim now, and it's not. He's not the victim. This crash killed four people and four good people," Duane said.
Duane said there are many facts revealed during the trial that are being forgotten.
“He [Aguilera-Mederos] misrepresented on his application to the company his experience. He exaggerated his job titles... He drove his car so hard, by time he got to Berthoud Pass, 30 miles from the crash site, his brakes were already smoking... Yet, he still drives above the speed limit. There’s people on I-70 who talk about how they passed him at a high-rate of speed," said Duane. “He's testified he’s panicked. Who wouldn’t be? But, he put himself in that position. It wasn't an accident."
Duane said when victim's family members spoke with Governor Jared Polis, he made it clear he wanted to get involved with the case.
"He [Governor Polis] felt that the 110-year sentence was too severe. And we told him that we agreed with that. We also told him, he should stay out of it," Duane said. “The date is January 13 at 1:30. You [Governor Polis] need to stay out of this until at least after that. And if he doesn't, I guarantee you he's bowing to political pressure. And are we going to allow the political pressure and social media to start defining our judicial systems? I think that's an extremely dangerous precedent set. And if he does that, I guarantee you he will hear from me, loudly and clearly.”
Beyond the words the Baileys have for the governor, the words they would want to say to Bill are what weigh heavy on their hearts.
"He was such a good person. The smartest person I know. I mean, I don't even hold a candle to him. Funny. He wrote poetry. He's great at trivia," Duane said. "I feel sorry that his life has been minimized to the point where nobody even seems to care anymore. Or at least, that's the impression we're getting."
On Thursday, a day before New Year's Eve, Gov. Polis granted clemency to Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, reducing his sentence from 110 years to only 10.