Dennis Leporin, 29, was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison for killing Chelsea D. Fredrickson, 19, in a wrong-way, head-on accident last year.
Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green ordered the sentence at the end of an hour-long hearing where nine members and friends of Fredrickson's family asked the judge to make sure Leporin can't hurt someone else.
Gerry Fredrickson, Chelsea's father, said he tried to kill himself after his daughter died, but he kept going because "I have four amazing, other children" who lost their best friend.
He noted Chelsea - who graduated from Camdenton High School in 2011 - "was the first Fredrickson to ever graduate from high school."
Sobbing or fighting back tears several times, he told Green: "I pray no other parent would have to bury their child."
Stepmother Jolene Parker Fredrickson told Green that Chelsea had "filled a hole in my heart," but that her death "left me with a gaping hole in my soul."
Chelsea died as she was driving home after working at Lutz' Barbecue, where she had worked about nine months. Her picture remains as the store's computer screen-saver.
Leporin read a statement that he thinks about the accident every day and doesn't like the man he sees whenever he looks in the mirror.
"I can't ever begin to understand the pain that I've put you all through," he told the family. "I ask God, why couldn't it have been me that night?"
Noting Prosecutor Mark Richardson previously had offered a deal with an 18-year maximum sentence, Leporin's attorney Dan Dodson asked Green to impose a sentence closer to the 10-year minimum, and to order treatment in a special program in northern Missouri.
Richardson argued for a tougher sentence, reminding Green that Leporin had a blood-alcohol content level of 2.5 - three times the state's legal limit - when he was tested more than an hour after the accident.
Green accepted Richardson's recommendation - 24 years for his guilty plea to second-degree murder, to be followed by six years for his guilty plea to second-degree assault.
Leporin also pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated on June 17. Green ordered him to serve four years for that crime to be served at the same time as the assault sentence.
Police said Leporin was eastbound in the westbound lanes of U.S. 54 and driving with his headlights off, when his 1999 Ford Ranger ran into Fredrickson's 2003 Saturn Ion, just west of the Route B/Missouri 179 overpass.
In a probable cause statement filed with the original charges, Jefferson City Police Officer Andrew Lenart reported Leporin's "eyes were watery and there was a strong odor of an intoxicating beverage" when the officer first met Leporin, still seated in his truck waiting for emergency responders to pry his door open.
Lenart wrote that Leporin said he'd had a couple of drinks.
Later, at the hospital, the probable cause statement reported that Leporin made statements to officers that "I was in a horrible wreck that I caused" and that he was "really wasted."
Richardson told Green on Wednesday that after drinking heavily at the Lake of the Ozarks, Leporin had turned down his girlfriend's request to spend the night at her Eldon apartment, and had stopped to buy more alcohol before the accident happened at 9:55 p.m. on March 6, 2013.
Fredrickson was killed and her passenger, Jasper J. Richmond, received serious injuries.
Jolene Fredrickson read a letter from Richmond saying that Chelsea, his girlfriend of three years at the time of the wreck, "was my everything," and that her death had left him "depressed and enraged."
The accident also left him with permanent injuries.