GRETNA, La. (WGNO) — A Jefferson Parish man pleaded guilty to a drunk driving crash that resulted in the tragic death of a child. On Tuesday morning, 58-year-old Wendell Lachney pleaded guilty to the killing of 9-year-old Abby Douglas according to the Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul D. Connick Jr.

Lachney pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, first-degree vehicular negligent injury, and other offenses from the incident that happened back in October 2021. Investigators say Lachney crashed into the family’s minivan on Belle Chasse Highway going at a high speed near the intersection of Lapalco Boulevard on the night of October 22. The impact of the crash resulted in the death of Abby Douglas. Her mother was also injured in the crash.

The Jefferson Parish District Attorney says that law enforcement took blood samples from Lachney more than 2 and a half hours after the crash and the samples showed that his blood-alcohol content was .22 percent, more than double the legal limit. Along with that, he had two prior DWI convictions before the crash.

WGNO News crews were in the courtroom and witnessed the emotional day and heard testimony from Abby’s family members. Her mother recalled being stopped at a red light when she saw Lachney closing in from behind and then slam into her minivan reported Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul D. Connick Jr.

Here is what her mother said according to the JP District Attorney:

I watched strangers performing CPR on my 9-year-old on the cold cement road,” she testified. “I fell to my knees as I grabbed a man by his legs and begged him to save my daughter. I screamed to God and to the helpers to kill me instead. Take me, so my daughter can live. I prayed. I begged. I bartered with my soul. Did you hear my screams that night, Wendell?”

Her father said he misses her:

 “I miss our jam sessions in the car and our trips to get coffee. I miss holding you in my arms when you need someone to be strong for you. I am so sad that I will never get to walk you down the aisle or see what an amazing parent you would have been.  Your mom, your brothers and I miss you dearly, and life will never be the same without you here.  We love you to the moon and back.”

Abby Douglass’s family Attorney, Bernard Depuy lll spoke to WGNO about the guilty plea and said the family was content with the outcome. “Today was a tough hearing for everyone involved and I just have a brief statement from the family. They are very satisfied with the judge’s decision today, they believe that the sentence was in line with what occurred that night,” said Depuy.

Lachney also had a message to the family at the very end where he got emotional and told them he wished it was him that died that night instead of Abby Douglas.

Lachey’s Attorney, Frank Desalvo also spoke to WGNO and told us that he felt terrible about what had happened. “What you heard him say came from his heart. Of course, he felt remorse. that night of the incident he said he wished it had been him,” said Desalvo.

Lachney faces up to 35 years in prison.  Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Lachney to 30 years in prison for vehicular homicide and five years suspended for first-degree vehicular negligent injury.