A 19-year-old from Ohio may spend the rest of her life behind bars after she was convicted and sentenced for intentionally crashing her car into a brick wall at 160 km/h (100 mph), killing her boyfriend and a friend.
Mackenzie Shirilla was only 17 years old on the night she crashed her Camry into the side of a commercial building outside Cleveland. Prosecutors argued at her murder trial that the teen had a toxic relationship with her boyfriend, 20-year-old Dominic Russo, and deliberately drove into the brick wall to end their relationship.
In doing so, “she took everybody that was in the car with her,” Tim Troup of the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office said. This included Russo’s friend Davion Flanagan, 19.
Both men were pronounced dead at the scene following the wreck. Shirilla was hospitalized.
Shirilla was handed two concurrent life sentences with the possibility of parole after 15 years at her sentencing hearing Monday. Last week, she was found guilty of four counts each of murder and felonious assault, as well as aggravated vehicular homicide and other crimes.
The 19-year-old didn’t testify at her trial, but Shirilla did tearfully read a statement to the families of the victims at her sentencing, saying she couldn’t recall what happened that night in July 2022.
“I hope one day you can see I would never let this happen or do it on purpose,” she said. “I wish I could remember what happened. I’m just so sorry. I’m heartbroken. … I wish I could take all your pain away.”
A video of the final seconds before the deadly crash was showed as evidence during Shirilla’s trial, showing her Camry accelerating down a street before careening into a building, with no signs of slowing down.
Common Pleas Court Judge Nancy Margaret Russo said this video was pivotal in delivering her verdict, calling Shirilla’s actions “controlled, methodical, deliberate, intentional and purposeful.”
“This was not reckless driving. This was murder,” Russo said.
“She morphs from responsible driver to literal hell on wheels,” the judge added, according to Cleveland.com.
Prosecutors argued during the murder trial that Shirilla had made violent threats against her boyfriend in the past, including threatening to break into his home and key his car. On one occasion, two weeks before the wreck, she threatened to crash her car with him in it.
The couple allegedly broke up and fought often, according to witness testimonies.
Meanwhile, defence lawyer James McDonnell said prosecutors had no evidence that Shirilla meant to kill her two passengers or what was going on in the car in the seconds leading up to the crash.
Judge Russo said during Monday’s sentencing hearing that she was sparing the defendant consecutive sentences in the two deaths but didn’t believe Shirilla would get parole in 15 years — and there was “a very good likelihood” Shirilla could spend the rest of her life in prison, depending on her conduct and the parole board’s decision.
— with files from The Associated Press