Robert Perez Salaz held up the crisp, white tuxedo his 22-year-old son Robert Gaudiel Perez Lopez planned to wear for his wedding and showed it to Pima County Superior Court Judge Howard Hantman in his courtroom Thursday morning.
He recalled the day his son tried on the tux and how excited he was to fulfill his dream of being married.
But on July 24, 2012, Perez Lopez was killed by a drunken driver, 17 days before his wedding day.
Joseph Subia, 24, the driver of a Ford Focus, ran a red light near South Palo Verde and East Irvington roads and hit a pickup truck driven by Perez Lopez, causing the truck to catch fire and killing him at the scene.
Both vehicles also crashed into an Arizona Department of Corrections car carrying an inmate. The corrections officer and inmate had non-life-threatening injuries.
Subia pleaded guilty in April to one count each of manslaughter and driving under the influence and two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; he was sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison Thursday.
Family, friends and co-workers of both Subia and Perez Lopez filled Hantman's courtroom.
Elizabeth Subia asked Hantman not to sentence her husband, an Army veteran who has completed two tours in Afghanistan, to the maximum term because of the effect it would have on the couple's three young daughters.
"When he gets out, they're not going to know who their dad is and that's a punishment in itself," she said.
Perez Salaz, assisted by the courtroom interpreter, urged the judge to give Subia the maximum sentence of 15 years.
"Only when you give him the maximum sentence he'll be able to understand the great damage he has caused," Perez Salaz said.
Perez Salaz described his son as a hardworking, caring person.
When the family moved to Tucson from Cuba in 2009 after obtaining a refugee visa, it was Perez Lopez who paid the $600 rent deposit for their first home, Perez Salaz said.
Perez Lopez played two games of baseball, his favorite sport, on Sundays and enjoyed playing the piano and trumpet, his father said.
"His favorite hobby was to put together quartets and trios to sing hymns to God," Perez Salaz said.
Even though he worked long hours six days a week and woke up at 3:30 a.m. each day, Perez Lopez often stopped to help stranded motorists he passed on the freeway fix their car or a tire, his dad said.
Perez Salaz recognized that two families were affected by the car crash.
"It hurts me to see his parents; I don't think they deserve this tragedy either. But they will have the chance to visit their son in prison, bring him his favorite food, hug him, but the only thing we have left is to visit our son in the cemetery," he said.
"Only when you give him the maximum sentence he'll be able to understand the great damage he has caused."
Robert Perez Salaz, father of son who was killed by a drunken driver
Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at email@example.com or at 573-4224.