WATERBURY — Casey Lynne Giannone was a 19-year-old who loved vacations, her dog and her family. An art major at Naugatuck Valley Community College with a dream of working for the movie animation company Pixar, she was headed to the Disney College Program in Orlando, Fla.
But in a matter of moments, her life, one of bright potential, was snuffed out, all because the distracted driver of a semitruck barreled into stopped traffic on Interstate 84, touching off the deadly crash that killed Giannone. Jasvir Singh was sentenced to four years in prison on Friday during a heart-wrenching hearing where Giannone’s family told of losing her.
Singh pleaded no contest to first-degree manslaughter and first-degree assault as part of a plea deal. Singh, 31, of Indianapolis, Ind. was hauling a load of candy to Massachusetts on Jan. 6, 2016 when he came upon stopped traffic near Exit 23.
Up ahead of him on the highway sat Giannone, of Beacon Falls, in the passenger seat of a Subaru Legacy. She and her boyfriend, Alex Milosevic, then 18, were heading to a movie that night in Plainville.
As Singh’s truck careened forward, it crashed into the back of a box truck as a witness looked on. That truck then rear-ended a semitruck, which crashed into the Subaru, pushing it into the rear of a Toyota Corolla, according to police.
The box truck driver thought he was going to die, as the impact of Singh’s truck pushed him forward toward the back end of a truck trailer full of logs. That driver escaped major injuries.
A fire then broke out between the tractor-trailer and the Subaru. Troopers said Giannone’s death was a result of the collision. She was pronounced dead at the scene, while Milosevic, covered in blood, was pulled from the burning car. He was seriously injured in the crash.
Singh’s attorney, Ioannis Kaloidis, said Singh hadn’t driven beyond his allotted time, had a clean log book for his truck and was using a blue tooth device to talk on his trip.
“Unfortunately, something did distract him at that moment,” he said.
Giannone’s mom, Irene Johnson, said lives were forever changed in that one moment of distraction that killed her baby girl. Her daughter had things figured out, counseled her friends, had an amazing boyfriend and taught her to see people for who they were. Her loss was devastating, she said.
She wanted Singh to consider becoming an advocate to warn people against distracted driving. No matter what the distraction is, it can wait while driving, she urged.
Singh stole Giannone’s future from her family. After that night, there was no college program with Disney, no chance for her dad to walk her down the aisle for her wedding, no “hey dad, can you come over and fix this?” said her father Jody Giannone.
“You not only became a killer that night, but also a thief,” he told Singh. “You took it all, Mr. Singh.”
Singh kept his eyes to the floor as Casey’s family told Judge Roland Fasano of the heartache caused when Singh’s reckless act took their daughter and sister from them.
With help from an Indian interpreter, Singh, a trucker by trade, said he understood the pain Giannone’s family was going through, as he had lost a brother to a drunken driver.
“I want to apologize to everyone who suffered in this case,” he said.
Distracted driving is something people see every day, Fasano said. But what people don’t see, he said, is the absolute devastation done to a family that was evident during Friday’s hearing. Singh was sentenced for his criminal conduct, but if he had to sentence him for the value of Casey’s life, the term would be 100 years, he said.
Singh will have to serve three years of probation after he’s released from prison.