OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- An Overland Park teenager admitted his role in a drunk driving crash that killed a father of four last year when he appeared before a Johnson County judge Thursday morning.
Conner Estrella, who is just 17- years old but would’ve been tried as an adult, took a deal and pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated battery.
Police say Estrella was drinking and driving last August 7 when he crashed his car near 84th and Tomahawk Road in Overland Park. Kevin Moroney, 52, was killed in the accident, and his girlfriend, Maureen Hogg, was seriously hurt.
“It’s a good feeling to finally hear that he’s admitting to guilt and possibly having a little bit of remorse or understanding there are consequences for the actions,” said Blakelund Moroney, the victim’s son.
Kevin’s four grown children told FOX 4 they are relieved Estrella took a plea deal and spared them the emotional pain of a lengthy trial.
“It`s like a chapter that we can kind of close off in this long mess of things that we’re dealing with revolving around the death of our dad,” said Brent Moroney, the victim’s oldest son.
Prosecutors said Kevin was killed just outside his home when Estrella, a teen on probation and violating his curfew, was driving drunk and hit him.
“It`s been hard,” said Blakelund of the past year. “It`s a constant reminder, everything we go through every day.”
It’s a constant reminder of a man who, although gone, is still very much present in their lives –his smile cemented in time on a wall of family pictures.
“Obviously bittersweet looking at all the good times we`ve had and the things we`ll miss,” Brent said as he looked at the photographs.
Their father gave them memories to cherish, and a heartbreaking tragedy they're now trying to turn into something positive.
“Until it hits home for you, you really don`t think about it,” Blakelund said of drunk driving accidents. “So hopefully through our story, and the stories of others that are impacted, people can think twice, and if it changes five people, then maybe that`s five people that we saved.”
Kevin’s children have also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Estrella and his parents. It alleges his parents were negligent in providing their son, who was on probation and violating curfew, with a car that night.
Estrella will be sentenced on Sept. 17. He faces up to 14 years behind bars. Fox 4 tried to speak with his family Thursday at court, but they had no comment.