Still hurt by the sudden loss of their loved one eight months ago, the Moreno family can’t bring themselves to enjoy the holidays.

Thanksgiving dinner, usually a large affair, wasn’t as celebratory.

And they haven’t put up a Christmas tree like usual.

“My mom hasn’t smiled the same,” said Antonia Moreno, a sister of the late Juan J. Moreno-Tamayo. “It’s been very hard for us not having him.”

On April 11, motorcyclist Moreno-Tamayo was struck by meatpacking plant co-worker Luis Velasquez-Ortiz at 32nd and Q Streets. Velasquez-Ortiz drove off, running over Moreno-Tamayo’s body.

Douglas County Judge Kimberly Miller Pankonin sentenced Velasquez-Ortiz to the maximum amount on two charges Thursday — a total of five years — citing that he “likely and logically” knew what had occurred before fleeing. Velasquez-Ortiz had pleaded no contest to failing to stop and render aid and to a misdemeanor charge of motor vehicle homicide.

“He caused this accident, and then like a coward, he fled and crushed Mr. Moreno-Tamayo,” said prosecutor Jameson Cantwell.

Witnesses got the license plate number on Velasquez-Ortiz’s Ford Explorer, then authorities from several agencies served a search warrant at a family home and arrested Velasquez-Ortiz. Cantwell said Velasquez-Ortiz will most likely be deported to his home country after his sentence. Officials have said that he is in the U.S. illegally from Guatemala and has lived in Omaha for 15 years.

Authorities found no evidence that drugs or alcohol were involved, and Velasquez-Ortiz’s defense attorney Peder Bartling said that his client has been sober for nine years.

Moreno-Tamayo left behind two sons and two daughters. His grandmother, the matriarch of the family, died a month after the wreck.

“A lot of people said she went to go take care of him,” Moreno said. “She was very sad. He was her oldest grandson and it just hurt us a lot.”

Claribel Moreno, another sister, revealed that she drove past the site of the hit-and-run that day while driving her husband to work.

“I didn’t know it was my brother. I took the detour and I went home. I feel like I cannot forgive myself for leaving him there,” she said. “I don’t know what kind of person would hit somebody and not stop.”

Alia Conley covers breaking news, crime, crime trends, the Omaha Police Department and initial court hearings. Follow her on Twitter @aliavalentine. Phone: 402-444-1068.

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