TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A Pima County Superior Court judge sentenced Michael Leday on Monday to more than 57 years in prison after he was convicted in a brutal New Year's Day double homicide.
A jury convicted Leday in September of two counts of second degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault for the deaths of Patrick Balbastro and Cindy Burnett and for seriously injuring Valerie Calonge.
Leday received the max sentence of 25 years for each of the second degree murder charges, to run consecutively. He received the max sentence of 7 years for one of the aggravated assault charges and the presumptive sentence of 7 and a half years for the second aggravated assault charge. The two aggravated assault sentences will run concurrently, meaning they will run at the same time.
The judge did give Leday a little less than two years credit for time served, so he will end up spending more than 55 years in prison. Leday is 30-years-old.
After a night of celebration, Balbastro and Calonge were on their way home in the early morning hours of New Year's Day 2014 when they saw Leday hurting Burnett on the side of the road. They stopped to help Burnett, a complete stranger. That led to a fight between Balbastro and Leday.
Police say Leday got into Balbastro's car and intentionally ran over all three people, including the woman he was with that night, Burnett. Both she and Balbastro died.
In Monday's sentencing, family and friends of Leday's victims spoke in front of the judge, bringing many in the courtroom to tears.
They talked about how Balbastro was truly a good Samaritan that night and how Burnett's work with domestic violence victims was left unfinished.
Calonge spoke Monday saying that she lost a hero that night.
"I am strong and I fight to get better but my struggle is endless," she said.
Calonge also testified against Leday in court but said she doesn't remember much from that morning. The prosecutor when trying to prove that there was pre-meditation on Leday's part, emphasized the fact that he reversed and ran over Balbastro several times.
"I don't hate him," said Lorraine Solorzano, Balbastro's sister. "I'll never hate him because hate consumes you so I'm just happy that justice prevailed and he will never be able to hurt anybody. Now my family can move on, Cindy's family and Valerie and we just thank God for today."
Leday originally faced two counts of first degree murder, one count of attempted first degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault.
Before his sentencing, he spoke for the first time in this case.
"It just happened man, it just happened," he said to the court. "I can't change it, it just happened. I didn't try to, I'm sorry. I feel pain for the loss you guys have suffered, I never meant to hurt anybody."
Knowing that Leday will spend more than five decades in prison, Balbastro's family says they finally feel like they can breathe again.
"It's not going to bring us peace completely but I can take a deep breath now and put a smile back on our face," said Monica Monkemeier, Balbastro's cousin. "There's a sense of a little bit of peace there now."