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Plea deal outrages Salem drunken driving victim’s family

Angelique Griffin was drunk when her vehicle crashed into a a tow truck and killed passenger Dillon P. Renard, 19.

Ken Yuszkus/The Salem News

Angelique Griffin was drunk when her vehicle crashed into a a tow truck and killed passenger Dillon P. Renard, 19.

SALEM — The family of a 19-year-old Danvers man killed in a car crash in June lashed out Thursday at the woman who drove the vehicle while drunk and plowed it into a parked tow truck, calling her plea deal of two years behind bars a “slap on the wrist.”

“Where’s the justice for my son?” said Cherie Rubner, 44, the mother of Dillon P. Renard, outside Salem District Court. “My son didn’t deserve this. He’s gone, and she’ll be out soon.”

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Renard was riding in the car driven by Angelique Griffin, 25, who pleaded guilty in Salem court on Thursday to motor vehicle homicide while operating drunk, as well as negligent operation.

Griffin was sentenced to two years in prison, followed by six months of home confinement. The Registry of Motor Vehicles revoked her license for 15 years, which is mandatory after a felony motor vehicle homicide conviction.

According to Essex prosecutors, Griffin had a blood alcohol level of .14 after the June 16 crash and admitted to police that she drank two beers and two vodka drinks mixed with Red Bull.

While prosecutors said they arrived at the plea agreement after lengthy conversation with Renard’s family, Rubner and other relatives said they expected Judge Michael Lauranzano would reject the agreement and prosecutors would seek an indictment in Superior Court, which would have subjected Griffin to a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

After several relatives gave victim impact statements and Lauranzano accepted Griffin’s change of plea to guilty, Rubner and Renard’s aunts, brother, and other relatives and friends rose to their feet and yelled at Griffin, who sat solemnly nearby. As many as three dozen friends and family of the victim filled the courtroom, and as Jane Prince, Essex County assistant district attorney, gave details of the events leading up to the crash, Rubner and several others sobbed.

“I hope you get hit by a car when you get out,” one unidentified man shouted.

According to authorities, Griffin and Dillon were at a local private house party prior to the 3:30 a.m. crash. The flatbed of the illegally parked truck Griffin hit pierced the hood of the car before slamming into Renard, who was sitting in the front passenger seat. He was killed instantly.

Griffin said at the scene, “It’s my fault, it’s my car,” Prince told Lauranzano, and admitted that she was too drunk to be driving.

Scott Dullea, Griffin’s attorney, said his client has been willing to accept responsibility for the crash from the time it occurred.

“Any sentence Ms. Griffin gets today will not compare to what she has to live with for the rest of her life,” he said. “She understands the pain she has caused his family.”

On a website set up after Renard’s death, his family said they wanted Griffin sentenced to the maximum 15 years

“He decided to get a ride home with Angelique Griffin unaware of how intoxicated she was and because of this woman’s choice to drink and drive, Dillon never made it home that night,’’ the family wrote.

At the courthouse on Thursday, Renard’s relatives described him as a fun-loving guy who had beautiful blue eyes and made friends easily. He loved to dismantle things and put them back together. He was working two jobs, one at a local Home Depot and the other at a cellphone store. Dillon loved to eat, especially Chinese food, the relatives said.

“Christmas will never be the same,’’ said his aunt, Lisa MacCuish.

Brian Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com

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