WILKES-BARRE – It could be as simple as a smell, a food, a TV show.
That’s all it takes to remind James Seeman of his daughter, Amber.
And it jolts him “back in that dark place,” a place he’s often been cast since Amber died in a drunken-driving wreck on April 4, 2007. Sometimes the instant hurt lasts for only a week, but it’s something Seeman will have to face for a lifetime.
Because of that, Seeman felt whatever amount of jail time Amber’s killer, John E. Day, got, it would never be long enough to make up for Amber’s death.
“We’re never going to be able to see our daughter again,” Seeman said Tuesday, holding pictures of Amber and her 5-year-old daughter. “He’s going to be able to see his (family) again.”
But it won’t be for several years.
Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. on Tuesday sentenced an apologetic Day to three to six years in state prison in the fatal wreck. Olszewski tacked on an additional one to two years in prison in an unrelated case.
“It’s never going to be enough,” Seeman later said. “How much is a life worth?”
Day, 31, of Hunlock Creek, previously pleaded guilty to a single count of homicide by motor vehicle while driving under the influence in connection with the wreck.
Police said Day had blood-alcohol content of 0.16 percent when he lost control of his vehicle on Wilkes-Barre Boulevard in Wilkes-Barre and struck a tree. Amber Seeman, 26, his passenger, died at the scene.
An adult driver in Pennsylvania is considered legally intoxicated with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent.
Day, at his sentencing Tuesday, apologized.
“I’m very sorry for what I’ve done,” he said. “I let down a lot of people, including my family, my son. I’m here to accept responsibility for everything I’ve done. This was not planned – not at all.”
First Assistant District Attorney Jeff Tokach reminded Olszewski the homicide charge carried a mandatory sentence of three to six years in state prison. Olszewski imposed that, plus the additional one to two years on a criminal attempt charge in an unrelated drug case.
Day’s attorney, Todd Johns, told Olszewski his client stood up and accepted responsibility for his actions. Day has battled drug and alcohol problems, Johns said. But the attorney stressed he was not making excuses for his client’s actions.
He wanted Olszewski to not impose an additional sentence on the criminal attempt charge. That, Johns said, would still punish Day while giving him a chance to rehabilitate himself.
Olszewski said he read every letter sent to him from the victim’s family and Day’s family and supporters. It made the sentencing a difficult thing to handle.
“Nobody will leave this courtroom happy,” he said.
But Day has had chances to rehabilitate himself in the past, Olszewski noted in leveling the sentences on both charges.
“People have tried to help you … it hasn’t worked,” he said.
Olszewski suggested state prison officials not allow Day a release earlier than the three-year minimum. And if Day misbehaves in prison or fails to get treatment, the judge wants Day to serve all six years.
He wasn’t done.
Once paroled, Day cannot drink alcohol, or his parole will be revoked.