WILKES-BARRE – Rachel Wolfe was an 84-year-old grandmother and great-grandmother who was full of life, two of her granddaughters testified Monday.
The Berwick woman known as “Gram” and “GG” enjoyed morning water aerobics, gardening and spending time with her family until she was killed in a crash on Jan. 4, 2012.
“She was the most loving and caring individual I’ve ever met,” her granddaughter Megan Kiliti said Monday before Theodore Luciw was sentenced to five to 10 years in state prison on a charge of homicide by motor vehicle while driving under the influence. “It wasn’t her time.”
Luciw was charged with causing the wreck after police said he was traveling at high speed while trying to pass another vehicle in the “turn only” lane on Route 11 in Salem Township. His vehicle collided head-on with Wolfe’s car.
Luciw, 51, of Berwick, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.263 percent, more than three times the legal limit of 0.8 percent for an adult driver in Pennsylvania.
His attorney, Demetrius Fannick, said his client began a downward spiral over the past decade after his longtime companion died of cancer.
“Her death was a traumatic event … that caused him to start drinking,” Fannick said, adding that in no way is that an excuse for his client’s actions.
Luciw has been seeking help for his addiction to alcohol while locked up at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility and is eager to do what he can to shake the habit.
“He realizes there is far better treatment (in state prison),” Fannick said.
Luciw’s mother and brother spoke of him as a man who would do anything for others and who was always there for them in times of need.
“He’s so sorry for what happened, and he wishes he could take it back,” Luciw’s mother, Cecelia, said. “But he can’t.”
Luciw pleaded guilty to the charge in February, as well as to additional charges of DUI, careless driving, reckless driving, disregarding traffic lanes and passing when prohibited. He was ordered to pay several hundred dollars in fines on those charges.
Luciw spoke briefly before his sentencing:
“I apologize to (Wolfe’s) family. … I’m sorry for what I’ve done. I hope someday you can find it in your hearts to forgive me,” he said.
Deputy District Attorney Alexis Falvello said it’s clear Luciw has had an alcohol problem spanning 29 years with seven DUI convictions.
“That screams he has a problem with alcohol addiction,” Falvello said.
He said it is clear Luciw did not learn he should not get behind the wheel in several DUI convictions before the January 2012 deadly crash.
“If Jan. 4 didn’t change his life, I don’t know what will,” Falvello said, adding that Luciw was charged with his seventh DUI three months after the fatal crash.
Luciw faced a mandatory minimum of 3 1/2 years in prison, but Judge David Lupas said he was sentencing Luciw to a lengthier term because of Luciw’s prior convictions and inability to stop himself from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.
“(Luciw) clearly presents a danger to the community,” Lupas said.