Blappert: "I want to be punished"

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - As Darrell Blappert stood before the judge answering calmly, the courtroom waited for one question: "How do you plead, sir? Guilty or not guilty?" Judge Larry Bourgeois asked.

"Guilty, sir," replied Blappert.

With those words, the 27-year-old took full responsibility for his actions that lead to the tragic death of Deanna Tucker, the daughter of the Gulfport Police Chief.

Full of regret, he pleaded to her family sitting in the front row.

"I am truly sorry and I want to be punished," sobbed Blappert.

During the proceedings, the courtroom was overwhelmed with emotion as Tucker's death was recounted again and again. Blappert's composure crumbled as he recounted how he had been drinking before getting behind a wheel last March.

With her wedding just a few weeks away, Tucker had just left a bridal shop on Pass Road, and strapped her son in his car seat when Blappert slammed his car into her, pinning her between two cars. She later died from her injuries.

Tucker's mother brought everyone to tears with her victim impact statement. She spoke of how Tucker's young son still grieves his mother, and even used a birthday wish to ask for Tucker to come back.

"I should have been planning a wedding, not a funeral," said Tucker's mother Barbara Weatherford. "I relive that day over and over in my mind at night. I would give my own life it could bring her back."

Tucker's fiancé also presented the judge with a statement, but was too upset to read it out loud.

With the family sobbing, Blappert was sentenced to 25 years in prison 18 of which he will serve.

"Am I happy about this today? No, I'm not happy today about this. But we just wanted justice to be served fairly. We feel like it has," said the victim's father, Chief Alan Weatherford.

With that justice there is hope that Tucker's life was not lost in vain.

The judge recommended that Blappert be allowed to speak once a year during his sentence to high school students about the dangers of drinking and driving.

"Hopefully I can do something to help other people to save lives," Blappert told the court.

"No body wins but what's important is the message that we send out there about the dangers of drinking and driving. Just be responsible. If you are with a friend, then take those keys away from the person that's been drinking," pleaded Weatherford.

Weatherford said it has been a painful year for his family, and while there will never be full closure, closing the trial means forgiving can begin.

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