Man sentenced to 30 years for high-speed crash that killed three people

Abdi Ahmed apologized to the victims' families, who testified about the pain they carry
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 5:51 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2022 at 6:20 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Two years after a high-speed crash on Lombardi Ave. in Green Bay killed three people, the man convicted has been sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Abdi Ahmed, 24, pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree reckless homicide three months ago and received 10 years in prison for each count against him. Judge John Zakowski ordered Ahmed to serve the sentences consecutively. That means Ahmed could be behind bars well into his 50s. The judge also sentenced Ahmed to 10 years of extended supervision for each count, also to be served consecutively.

Prosecutors say Ahmed was going 94 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour zone. The district attorney says witnesses told investigators Ahmed did not try to slow down before hitting the car.

Family members of Ahmed and his three victims -- Sonia Gonzalez, Sonia Gonzalez-Guillen, and Jesse Saldana -- sat in the courtroom. The victims’ families gave in-person, virtual and written statements with the help of interpreters. All of them asked the judge to hand down 45 years, the maximum he could face.

“Jesse was a son, brother, uncle, a cousin, a friend, a co-worker, a mentor and was loved by so many,” said one of Saldana’s family members.

“The pain is excruciating.”

Saldana’s mother said, “June 28, 2020, was the worst day of my life. I got the news that my son was killed in a car crash just a few block from our home ... It hit me like a deep stab in the heart to know my son was gone forever.”

The father of Sonia Gonzalez-Guillen was hoping for a harsh penalty but the severity of the charges was reduced in a plea deal. Ahmed was facing three counts of First Degree Reckless Homicide. Hector Guillen wanted Ahmed to be sentenced for the maximum time in prison. Guillen told Action 2 News he was especially close to his daughter who would talk to him for hours about her life and career goals. Guillen said Jesse was a wonderful young man.

“We had a beautiful routine of love,” said Guillen.

“The satanic action that he committed, the same devil will visit him in the night and his cellmates will hear him scream. He took three loved ones away,” Guillen told the court Monday.

Ahmed’s defense attorney said his client came over to this country speaking no English. He got a job to help his sister go to college and support his family. The attorney stated that Ahmed had no drugs and alcohol in his system as it would have been contrary to his religious beliefs.

Ahmed addressed the families of the victims, asking for forgiveness. He said he did not intend to kill their loved ones.

“I would like to apologize and send my deep condolences to you guys for the loss of your loved ones and the tragedy that happened on that fateful day,” Ahmed said. “It was never my intention to do any of this. It’s not something I planned to do. It’s just a tragedy, that I made a poor choice on that day, and I’m deeply sorry and hurt.”

He said he had sleepless nights.

“I’m not a bad person. I’m just a kid who made bad choices. I made a bad decision that day and it cost innocent, three people’s lives. That’s not something that a normal person would do, you know? I apologize and I hope you guys can forgive me. And I pray that God will grant you strength to forgive me for what I’ve caused. I’m truly sorry, again. And may god rest their souls,” said Ahmed.

He told the judge he would like the chance to talk to young people about the dangers of reckless driving.

The defense asked the judge to consider Ahmed was not under the influence of alcohol and drugs and said Ahmed’s risk of reoffending is low. They asked for probation.

Judge Zakowski said the crime was too reckless for probation.

“This is probably the saddest case I have ever dealt with,” and the most difficult sentencing, Zakowski said. He said he was trying to give the victims’ family members justice but also see Ahmed’s good character.

For 40 minutes, the judge spoke. He recognized the good about Ahmed but said Ahmed’s major character flaw is his passion for speed.

”You know, throughout this whole case, Abdi, I wanted to know, what the hell were you doing? I guess we know what you were doing. It’s probably, what the hell were you thinking?”

In the end, he said, the punishment needed to fit the crime.

”You won’t have these freedoms for a long time,” Zakowski said, hesitating, “and it’s so painful... but... the fact is..., you’ll be living.”

Ahmed’s cousin was in tears. “We’re so sorry today with what happened. We’re so sorry,” she said outside court. “I’m feeling so sad for both families, the victim family.”

Hector Guillen, father of a victim, told us through a translator, “Now we can find peace. We can meditate. We were walking with God.”

Prosecutors say Abdi Ahmed was going 94 in a 35 zone and killed 3 people in another car