Man gets 16 years for woman's death in drunken driving crash

The man who killed UNLV student Angela Nichole Peterson when he crashed his Dodge Ram into her mother's car after a night of heavy drinking in 2009 could spend more than 16 years in a Nevada prison.

Kevin Miranda, 20, sat with his head down during most of the sentencing hearing Thursday before District Judge Doug Smith, who didn't believe the defendant when he said he was remorseful but cut him a small break for pleading guilty to felony drunken driving and sparing Peterson's family the ordeal of a trial.

Peterson's parents, Frank and Linda Peterson, told a packed courtroom that included friends and family of both Miranda and his victim how their daughter's violent, untimely death destroyed their lives along with hers shortly after 1 a.m. Nov. 29, 2009.

Linda Peterson recounted in painful detail the day she learned her daughter was dead, from being awakened by the doorbell ringing in the predawn hours to be told her daughter had been killed by an underage drunken driver; how nobody could tell them where her body was for two days; and how they had to wait another four days to view her body because her crushed face had to be reconstructed.

Linda Peterson talked about being invited to UNLV's graduation in May 2010 and how Angela's name was called after 500 others and how 10,000 people stood and applauded as Frank and Linda Peterson received her two diplomas.

Their daughter's death, Linda Peterson said, has "physically, mentally and emotionally destroyed us."

"You have condemned us," said Frank Peterson, addressing Miranda. "Some day you will father a child, no doubt. Hold that child and remember what you took from me."

Moments later, he told Miranda he wished the defendant could have met his daughter.

"She would have made you smile," Frank Peterson said.

Miranda apologized to Peterson's family, then said, "I'm not the monster the media has made me out to be."

Smith said he hadn't witnessed "one bit" of remorse from Miranda in prior court hearings.

"I sense you're sorry for going to prison," Smith said, mentioning he heard Miranda was laughing after his arrest.

That wasn't true, Miranda said, and police in their report failed to mention he was distraught and crying after the crash.

"I didn't read that in the police report," the judge said.

"Of course not," Miranda said. "They aren't going to say that."

"He cried in my office," said defense attorney Dan Winder, who told Smith he has known Miranda's family for years.

Reports his client laughed about the incident were "grossly inaccurate," he said, adding that Miranda was resigned to the fact he would go to prison and opted to plead guilty to spare Peterson's family the agony of reliving that night.

"That's the only honorable thing he's done in this case," Smith said.

Peterson was returning home after a night of playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends. She was 24 when she died and was set to graduate with honors from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with degrees in psychology and anthropology.

Peterson died of blunt force trauma after Miranda, then 18, blew through a stoplight at Flamingo Road and Rainbow Boulevard at a high rate of speed after attending a party prosecutors think was thrown by his girlfriend's mother. Peterson was making a legal turn when she was struck.

Miranda, who admitted to drinking at least four shots of whiskey, emerged from the crash unscathed. His then-15-year-old girlfriend was treated for minor injuries. His blood alcohol level was 0.18, more than twice the legal limit.

Prosecutors asked for a maximum of 20 years for Miranda. A presentencing report from parole and probation officials suggested five to 12 years.

Smith split the difference, sentencing Miranda to a minimum term of six years and eight months to a maximum of 16 years and eight months.

An oversized photograph of the Pontiac Sunbird that Peterson was driving the night she died sat on an easel in the courtroom and was pointed directly at the defense table. The entire left side of the vehicle was heavily damaged, but the driver's side door took the brunt of the impact. Another poster-size photo showed Peterson in cap and gown at her high school graduation.

Frank Peterson brought his vanity license plate into the courtroom. Its seven letters read: MISSINGU.

Contact reporter Doug McMurdo at dmcmurdo@ or 702-224-5512.