Jayce Randall will get out of prison one day in the not-too-distant future, but he'll most likely never escape his own personal hell.
Randall, 27, was sentenced Friday to six years, six months in prison for causing a March car wreck that killed his 9-year-old nephew Donovan Best.
Relatives and Randall's attorney said the defendant cherished the boy, teaching him to play badminton and baseball and serving as father figure.
Now Randall can't sleep nights because of nightmares, defense attorney Michael Stewart said in Pierce County Superior Court on Friday.
"There is no one who can say harsher things about Mr. Randall than Mr. Randall himself," Stewart told Judge Bryan Chushcoff during a sentencing hearing.
Randall was behind the wheel of a car that went out of control March 16 at the interchange between state Routes 16 and 302. Donovan was riding in the front seat and was not properly restrained, authorities said. He was thrown from the car and died.
Randall's 8-year-old niece, who was riding in the back seat and wearing her seat belt, survived the crash and flagged down a passing motorist for help.
Randall, who was injured in the wreck, later admitted that he "drank too much" and smoked pot before loading the children into his car to take them to their grandparents' home.
His blood-alcohol level after his arrest was 0.19, more than twice the legal limit, prosecutors said.
Stewart said outside court his client was leaving a family gathering to take his niece and nephew to their grandparents' house for the night.
About 20 friends and relatives, including Donovan's mother, attended Friday's hearing to support Randall.
His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Randall, sent a letter to Chushcoff in which they described their family's pain at the loss of Donovan and the prospect of Randall going to prison.
"Donovan and his Uncle Jayce were extremely close," the Randalls wrote. "Our son will punish himself for the rest of his life over the decision he made that night and our family will never be able to fully heal."
Deputy prosecutor Tim Jones agreed to recommend a sentence at the low end of the standard range because Randall pleaded guilty as charged and took responsibility for his actions.
Jones also said he hoped Randall's relatives make sure to look after Donovan's sister, who lived through a very traumatic event.
Stewart then addressed the court, saying his client is heartbroken over the death of his nephew. Randall suffers an anxiety disorder and used alcohol to self-medicate, the attorney added.
Stewart then read aloud a letter composed by his client.
In it, Randall said he was responsible for what happened to his nephew, but that he never intended to hurt anyone.
"I loved my nephew tremendously," he wrote. "It weighs heavily on my heart and tears my conscience apart daily. I have hurt everyone in a way they will never fully heal from. I am sorry from the depth of my core."
In the end, Chushcoff agreed to the joint recommendation of 78 months, but he admonished Randall to seek treatment for his anxiety disorder and drinking problem.
"If you don't do that, shame on you," the judge said.