GATES, N.Y. (WROC) — Jamie McDonald, his kids, and their grandmother were enjoying time in their living room on Thursday, like any typical Rochester-area family.
It was a peaceful afternoon, despite the last six months that have tested their resolve more than most.
“A lot of crying. A lot of emotions. A lot of praying. A lot of kneeling at my daughter and son’s bedside,” said McDonald.
Last July, Letoya Palmo‘s car left Lyell Avenue and struck Jaime McDonald’s two children, Lily and Luke. At the time, Lily was 2 years old and Luke was 10 months old.
Palmo was taking pictures on her phone when she crashed into the kids in their red wagon, dragging them for 50 feet under her car. She pleaded guilty this week to all charges and will be sentenced in April.
“I was mad. Honestly, I think she deserved more time than just two and half years in prison,” said McDonald.
Lily and Luke’s grandmother, Patti Polino, agreed.
“She doesn’t know what we’ve been dealing with on a daily basis with these children,” said Polino.
As part of the plea agreement, Palmo will serve at least two and half years behind bars. While frustrated, McDonald and his mother Patti say they still respect the judge’s call, even though the toll has been tremendous.
“I just praying to God all of this is going to be okay,” said McDonald.
Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode helped lead community efforts to bring comfort to Jamie and family after the accident.
“When this first happened, I mean that family was literally living at Strong Memorial,” said VanBrederode.
He showed News 8 the wagon from the accident, and credits the survival of the children to the product itself: American-made Radio Flyer.
“This whole thing was a tragedy for all those involved,” he said, and that it was completely avoidable.
VanBrederode has a message for those who use their phones while driving. “Put it down, hang it up.”
For McDonald, he wants to focus on the healing process for his kids and family. There’s still a medical recovery journey ahead. He does not want to think any more about that awful day last July.
“Honestly, I don’t want to have to re-live it,” he said.