Hours before he drove drunk and rear-ended a car on the Kennedy Freeway near L Street — snapping the neck of a 67-year-old Omaha woman — Vismar Carmona-Martinez used his phone to take a video himself behind the wheel of his Chevy Malibu.

In the New Year’s Eve video, posted to social media, Carmona-Martinez, then 19, blared music and swigged from a beer can whose brand is Spanish for “model.”

On Monday, Carmona-Martinez became a model of a different sort. One that says don’t drink and drive. Somber, he apologized for the recklessness that led to Ann Smock’s death on Jan. 1, 2018.

“I’m very sorry for their loss,” he said. “I made a poor decision that night to drive under the influence. And I take full responsibility for it.”

Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon sentenced him to 10 to 11 years in prison for motor vehicle homicide. Under state law, which cuts most sentences in half, Carmona-Martinez will serve five years before he is eligible for parole and 5½ years before release.

Smock’s daughter, Michelle Hickey, noted that Carmona-Martinez had so many options. Uber. Lyft. A cab. Staying put until he was sober enough to drive. Not drinking in the first place, as he was 19 and under the legal drinking age.

Instead, he got blitzed and hopped on the Kennedy Freeway at Cornhusker Road in Bellevue. Heading north, he rode the tail of a car before using the left lane to pass that car and another one. He then whipped back across the traffic lanes to the right, apparently trying to make it to the L Street exit.

For some reason, Smock’s car was stalled, or barely moving, in the exit lane. She took the brunt of the collision. A crash expert estimated that Carmona-Martinez was going at least 55 mph at impact. A coroner’s physician determined that Smock’s spinal column snapped at the base of her skull.

Smock’s daughter, Michelle Hickey, said her mother was a spunky, outgoing woman of strong faith.

“She was so full of life,” she said. “The world was a better place with her in it.”

Hickey said the family is haunted by Carmona-Martinez’s “selfish act.” Every New Year’s Day and every Mother’s Day is a reminder of their loss, she said. Smock left behind four children and nine grandchildren.

“The constant void that we feel is extremely difficult,” Hickey said. “Our lives have been altered in so many ways. Ann Smock is not just a name. ... She was the rock of our family and the glue that kept us all together.”

She was just as steady to her circle of friends. Fifteen years ago, Smock showed up to a dance hall that Julene Zealand and Patti Trotter were at. She came to their table and plopped down, saying she wasn’t interested in sitting alone.

They didn’t sit long. She and about four others quickly hit the dance floor — with Smock often first in line. They formed a bond over their love of dancing, calling themselves the 5-6-7-8 sisters.

“Every (organized) dance starts with 5, 6, 7, 8,” Trotter explained.

The women danced the night away. Smock was often the first to the dance floor for all kinds of music, especially country.

“She would hardly ever sit down,” Trotter said. “Ann always had her own little twist on how she would dance. It was unique. And we can’t replace that.”

Carmona-Martinez has told immigration officials that he is in the U.S. illegally. A public defender at a previous hearing said that his family was from Mexico and that he has lived in the U.S. for 11 years. He graduated from Omaha South High School and worked in construction.

“By all accounts, he is a good kid,” said his attorney, Mickey Meckna.

Bataillon noted that Carmona-Martinez had no record. After he serves his term, prosecutors say, he will be deported.

“If this was my family, I’d want the absolute maximum also,” Bataillon said. “But I have to look at all the circumstances. I have to weigh all the circumstances. And I have to satisfy in my mind what I believe is justice in this matter.”

A member of Smock’s family shook his head at the judge’s sentence. Trotter said she was hoping “for more time” to help “Ann and her family get some more closure.”

Just before the crash, Smock spent her New Year’s Eve at the Bellevue Social Hall, dancing alongside Zealand and Trotter and friends. They hugged goodbye. Within minutes, Smock was gone.

“I don’t want to say he is a bad person,” Trotter said of Carmona-Martinez. “He just made a bad choice.

“And possibly he’s learned a valuable lesson from this. Maybe somebody who has watched this will also learn a valuable lesson and know that you can’t go drink and drive. It impacts a lot of people’s lives.”

Reporter - Courts

Todd Cooper covers courts, lawyers, trials, legal issues, the justice system and government wrongdoing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @CooperonCourts. Phone: 402-444-1275.

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