The man who killed Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta now knows his fate.
He was sentenced to 10 years in jail for vehicular manslaughter on Thursday in a hearing lasted for several hours, with emotional testimony from Leotta’s family.
When the judge read the sentence, there was no relief in the courtroom, there were no cheers or celebration or happiness, because there is no happiness without Noah.
“There are no winners, there are only losers in this,” says Noah’s father, Rich, “I lost my son, they lost their son to jail.”
47-year-old Luis Reluzco will spend 10 years in jail for vehicular manslaughter. He was convicted earlier this year of driving drunk, hitting and killing Noah Leotta, a Montgomery County Police Officer.
On December 3, 2015, Reluzco was driving drunk after drinking for hours at the Rockville Hooters. He reportedly had multiple drinks, smoked marijuana and took Xanax. That Hooters has since been shut down.
Ironically, when Noah was hit, he was on duty on the side of Rockville Pike, pulling over suspected drunk drivers.
Nearly a dozen people stood and spoke in the courtroom for about four hours, about their incredible loss and the hole that can never be filled in their hearts. Noah’s mother, Marci, said with tears in her eyes, “I feel like I want to die and be with him. Everything makes me sad. Every restaurant, park and landmark reminds me of Noah. Life will never be the same again. I lost my joy and every minute of every day I’m reminded I lost my Noah. I wake up every day hoping this was all a bad dream.”
Noah’s uncle, David said, “For 7 days my family stood by his bedside. We prayed for a miracle that didn’t come. That’s all we have to show for it. Noah was at peace. The rest of us still go on and suffer.”
Another relative said the pain is “horrific, visceral, endless.”
Family member after family member spoke to the courtroom, asking for the maximum sentence, talking about the permanent sadness in their family.
Noah’s father, Rich, spoke last. “It all ended so suddenly and tragically. And it didn’t have to. Noah had such a future. And I will never see that future. I like it better when I’m sleeping. There are times when I go into the woods to walk Noah’s dog and I just cry. I cry because I don’t want to cry with my wife and daughter. But I just have to cry.”
When asked if Rich could forgive Reluzco, he said he had “no revenge in his heart.”
In closing, Rich asked the judge to “Honor my son. He is a hero of Maryland.”
Reluzco listened as they all spoke, looking each one in the eye and showing what appeared to be genuine remorse. He then addressed the Leottas, saying he will never forgive himself and admitted that he was an alcoholic and had been for 30 years. Reluzco also said he wishes he had ran into a telephone pole that night and killed himself, instead of Noah. In tears, Reluzco said no sentence would be enough for what he had done.
Reluzco’s sister spoke on his behalf, saying “People have only heard bad things about Luis but there is a good side we all know and love. He’s a good, loving faithful man who made a really bad decision.”
This was Reluzco’s 4th alcohol related offense, dating back decades. Reluzco admitted in court that if he hadn’t killed Noah, it would have eventually been someone else’s life he would have taken.
The prosecution attorney, Peter Feeney, said Reluzco was so drunk, he had no recollection of what happened. Feeney then read from a recorded phone call Reluzco made from jail. “He wanted to undergo hypnosis to try and remember what happened,” said Feeney. He read Reluzco’s words: “Maybe they could put me under hypnosis or something like that to try to recall what happened that day. If it worked it would at least give us a clear idea of what happened from my eyes.”
Judge Ann Harrington sent a message: that drunk driving will not be tolerated. “You have accepted responsibility for this crime. You have repeatedly expressed remorse. Unlike Noah Leotta, you do have a future. You have a family. You have a home. You will have a new purpose,” said Judge Harrington.
“Today’s lesson is you can engage in a course of conduct a the defendant did but there will be consequences,” says Montgomery County Police Chief, John Manger.
The State’s Attorney, John McCarthy, was pleased with the sentence. “The recommended sentencing guidelines were 2 – 7 years, but the judge found those to be inadequate and recommended the maximum,” said McCarthy.
After today, the Leotta’s work is not done, they will continue their work to save lives through Noah’s Law, which requires convicted drunk drivers have an ignition interlock device installed on their car.
McCarthy said at a post-sentencing press conference, that they would work to try and close a loophole in Noah’s Law that doesn’t require every single convicted first-time drunk driver to install the device.
Rich Leotta said no matter how long Reluzco stays in jail, he will eventually get out and get to see his family again, but Rich will never be able to speak to his son again. “I want to hear my son’s voice. You have no idea how bad I want to hear his voice,” says Rich.
Now, Rich goes to Noah’s gravesite to talk to his son, which is exactly what he did before sentencing. “Now I can go back to him and say, yes I think Noah we made a difference today. The judges, who Noah said were too lenient, well guess what? Today they proved me wrong. They proved Noah wrong.”
Family members of Luis Reluzco declined to comment on camera, as did his attorney. But his attorney did say that the judge handed down a “fair sentence,” and that she “calls the balls and strikes as she sees them.”
Reluzco will be eligible for parole in 2 and a half years.