WAPAKONETA — Carrie Mills will never forget Nov. 8, 2015, the day she opened her door to find two officers outside about to tell her that her son was killed in a crash.
The death of her 16-year-old son, Noah Weber, changed Mills’ life and many others forever.
“I just kept saying, ‘No,’ over and over,” she said. “I finally collapsed on the floor because I knew I would never see him again. My heart, literally, was shattered in a thousand pieces.”
Mills spoke of the heartbreak during the sentencing hearing of 18-year-old Garret Hale, who passed out while driving after huffing from a can of compressed air. Hale was driving at 1:30 p.m. on St. Marys River Road, north of St. Marys, when he crashed the pickup truck.
Hale was convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide, driving while intoxicated and tampering with evidence for trying to hide the can of compressed air. Auglaize County Common Pleas Judge Frederick Pepple also suspended Hale’s driver’s license for 50 years.
Mills told Hale she never would forgive him.
Hale was sentenced Thursday to six years in prison but will have to live the rest of his life knowing his poor decisions led to the death of the 16-year-old Weber, who he said was his best friend.
Mills said sorry was just not good enough.
“You showed no remorse to my family. I heard about the things you said about my boy,” she said.
Hale said there are a lot of rumors, and he hoped to set the record straight.
“I know all the rumors floating around it doesn’t sound like this was an accident. It was. It haunts me every night. I remember waking up in that field seeing my best friend trapped in that truck,” Hale said. “I truly am sorry for everything that happened. He was like a brother to me. I never meant for anything like this to happen. We were just trying to have a little fun.”
Hale said he would trade his life to bring back Weber.
“I know it doesn’t mean much, and I know they don’t want to hear it, but I’m sorry for everything that happened. I would do anything. I wish I could trade places,” he said.
But the events of that fateful day cannot be changed. Pepple said he has seen too many cases with similar circumstances, just different names that represents families and lives torn apart.
“The court wishes I could say something that would help, but nothing I can say can take away the pain or undo what has been done,” Pepple said.
Pepple said he and numerous other people spend a lot of time trying to get children and adults to listen and avoid behavior that can kill them and others, or send them to prison. He expressed disappointment over whether the message is heard.
For Mills and her family, life will go on, but it never will be the same. Her son is gone forever, and she always will miss him and always wonder what would have become of a young life on the brink of becoming an adult.
Mills said her son wanted to be a teacher and was destined for a successful life.
“He had hopes, and he had dreams,” Mills said. “I had hopes, and I had dreams for him. Noah would have been an amazing man, and you took that from him.”
Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.