HOUSTON—Both sides agreed to a $6.5 million judgement Friday for the family of a 13-year-old girl killed by a drunk driver.
Nicole Lalime walked off her school bus and was killed in front of her home and her classmates on Dec. 16, 2008.
John Winne, who was drunk, hit the back of the bus, and then ran over Nicole.
The Lalime family obtained surveillance video from the school bus for their civil suit.
“A car hit her! I know what happened—I saw it. I need you all to sit and be quiet. Does anybody know Nicole’s last name?” the bus driver says in the video.
The video shows Nicole’s classmates screaming and crying on board the bus.
Winne pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
While Nicole’s parents will likely never see the money, they chose to sue to make a statement to Winne, and also drunk drivers who never see a jail cell.
“Just because you don’t go to jail doesn’t mean there won’t be a price to pay for it,” Nicole’s mother, Valerie Lalime, said. “Even if he had to write a check for $2 a month, at least it would be something in his mind –‘I did this.’”
Nicole’s mother said any money they do see will go to a foundation set up in Nicole’s name.
“The Nicole Lalime Foundation, which will be to help build more wells in underdeveloped countries - which was her love - and to help victims of drunk driving to get through the difficult times. So anything we receive is not for personal gain it is for helping others,” said Valerie Lalime.
Winne also must share his prison cell with Nicole’s photo.
For Nicole’s parents, it’s not just about their daughter.
“All those children on the bus who saw their friend and couldn’t do anything about it,” her mother said.
Nicole’s friends, who stood by the family three years ago and then through the criminal case, are still there.
“Nicole’s friends come and they have slumber parties at our house,” her mom said.
Now the teens have adopted Nicole’s parents and stay in touch almost daily.
“They text me all the time: I’m thinking of you today and love you,” she said.
Nicole’s parents also spoke with Winne’s mother for the first time Friday morning.
“He says above anything else, ‘don’t drink and drive because you have no idea how many lives it can destroy,’” said Sheila Winne.
She gave them a letter from Winne, who apologized to the Lalimes and asked for forgiveness.
He told them about his love of children and how he felt he’d “committed one of the worse crimes imaginable.”
He also apologized for his bad behavior during the arrest and for driving drunk.
“This is what we prayed for (what) would happen, that this would change his life,” said Valerie Lalime.
To the Lalime’s, it meant their daughter’s death wasn’t in vain.