Mark Nigh and Jason Tamayo had a lot in common before May 23, 2014.
Both were hard-working men who believed family was important. Both were well-thought of by friends and relatives.
But on that day, Tamayo took methamphetamine, climbed into his Jeep Cherokee and began to drive. The results were tragic.
The Jeep later slammed into Nigh as the 56-year-old University Place man stood behind his delivery truck in downtown Tacoma, severing his legs.
One of Nigh’s son was working with him that day delivering glass. Tony Nigh tried to stanch his father’s injuries and held him while waiting for help to arrive. Nigh later died of complications from his wounds.
Tamayo learned in Pierce County Superior Court on Friday the consequences of his actions, both for him and the Nigh family.
Judge Helen Whitener sentenced the Spanaway man to eight years, six months in prison, the high end of the standard range for his vehicular-homicide conviction.
“Mr. Tamayo, you indicated that you made a wrong decision to use an illegal substance, and that is so true,” Whitener said. “But you also made another decision that was wrong, and that was to use the illegal substance and to get behind the wheel of a vehicle.”
The high-end sentence had been recommended by deputy prosecutor Mark Sanchez and supported by Nigh’s relatives, many of whom attended court Friday.
The victim’s mother, Phyllis Nigh, told Tamayo her son was given 24 units of blood after the crash and languished on life support for two days before dying.
“I had to watch my son take his last breath,” Phyllis Nigh said. “I cannot forgive you for that. I’m sorry.”
The victim’s brother, Chris Nigh, told the court about Mark Nigh’s involvement in youth sports, about how he especially loved coaching lacrosse because kids of all sizes and abilities could learn to play it well.
Nigh’s oldest son, James, then addressed the court.
He said that he and his father were not on good terms at the time of his death, and that because of Tamayo, he’d never have a chance to patch things up.
“That’s something that can never be fixed,” he said.
Tamayo’s attorney, Bryan Hershman, went next.
Hershman said his client, who’d been working as an assistant manager at a QFC grocery store, had in the years leading up to the wreck endured several painful losses, including the death of his wife and that of a brother, and the diagnosis of one of his children with cancer.
Tamayo, 46, was suffering symptoms of depression when he tried meth for the first time about eight months before that day in May, Hershman said.
“I do not have the beauty of metaphor to tell this family behind me how sorry my client is or how sorry I am,” Hershman said. “I can simply tell them the remorse is genuine.”
Tamayo’s sister, Rita Candia, told the court her brother’s life began to unravel after his wife died, leaving him the single father of five children, including an 11-year-old daughter.
His actions in 2014 were “completely out of character for him,” Candia said.
Tamayo then got his chance.
He apologized to his family and to that of Nigh, saying it was “a nightmare” that he’d inflicted so much pain on the victim’s relatives, especially having endured losses of his own so recently.
“I know the struggle that they’re going to have with their children looking at them wondering when their dad is going to come home,” he said. “I know that look all too well.”
Whitener went last.
She remarked to the gallery on the similarities between Tamayo and Nigh before turning her full attention to the defendant.
“Mr. Tamayo, there comes a point in time where you have to be responsible for your own actions,” the judge said. “This is not a case where I believe 86 months ... is appropriate. This is a case where the maximum is appropriate.”