Helen Burgess was too upset to talk directly to the parents of Alvin Strauss on Tuesday, so she had her lawyer read a letter in which she described being unable to imagine the pain they were going through.
"I wish every day I could take it back ... to take Alvin's place. If I could take your pain and suffering away, I would," her attorney read as Burgess fought back tears. "I have wished for my death instead of his. ... Please know how truly sorry I am."
When asked by 4th District Judge Richard Greenwood whether she wanted to speak, the 43-year-old Burgess took several moments before saying, "I know I caused a lot of people a lot of pain. I am really sorry about that."
Burgess pleaded guilty in late January to charges related to a fatal car wreck on June 16. Ada County prosecutors said Burgess was under the influence of prescription medication when she crashed her Ford Explorer at highway speed into the Strauss' minivan, which was stopped at a light at Idaho 44 and Idaho 16.
Alvin Strauss, 5, who was in a child seat, died from injuries suffered in the crash. His 7-year-old sister, Lorna Marie Strauss, was hospitalized for an extended period. Burgess and a 14-year-old girl in her Explorer - neither had on seat belts - also went to the hospital.
Prosecutors said it was the third time in five years Burgess was caught driving under the influence of medication, and the second crash.
Prosecutor Shelley Akamatsu told Greenwood on Tuesday that Burgess can't be trusted not to drive. Akamatsu said Burgess was seen driving a car after the crash that killed Alvin Strauss.
"The risk that she will kill another innocent person is obvious," Akamatsu said. "This is not about what is best for Helen, this is about what is best for society."
Burgess has been diagnosed as bipolar and suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and other mental health issues, her attorney said, which is why she takes prescription medicine.
The judge said Greenwood feels genuine remorse and is not an evil person, but Greenwood told her Tuesday that she is a high risk to re-offend and needs to go to prison for the protection of society. He said she can ask for parole after serving two years. She is banned from driving for life.
Burgess did not look at Alvin Strauss' parents, looking instead at the ground or the defense table. Marshals led the bound and weeping Burgess from the courtroom as many of her family and friends fought back tears.
Patrick Orr: 377-6219, Twitter: @IDS_Orr