The teen girl placed a photo of her deceased boyfriend on the table in the front of a Summit County courtroom Monday morning.

Adriana Holst wanted John R. Bird and anyone who spoke on his behalf during his sentencing to gaze at the face of the 17-year-old boy he killed in a drunken-driving crash in December 2016.

“Look at his sweet face,” said Holst, 16, who was seriously injured in the crash that killed Grant Wilson. “Imagine how I last saw it. Remember what this is really about before you speak.”

Holst’s heartfelt remarks were among the highlights of Bird’s emotional, hourlong sentencing in Summit County Common Pleas Court. The courtroom was so packed that the chairs had to be rearranged to make room.

Bird, 51, pleaded guilty last month to one count of aggravated vehicular homicide, two counts of aggravated vehicular assault and one count of operating a vehicle while under the influence for a crash that claimed the life of Wilson and seriously injured Holst and her father, Sebastian Holst, who was driving.

Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands sentenced Bird to eight years in prison. He faced up to 18 years.

Sebastian Holst, who lives in Chagrin Falls, dropped Wilson and his daughter off at Stan Hywet on the evening of Dec. 23, 2016, to see the holiday lights display. He had just picked them up to take them to dinner when the crash happened about 7:30 p.m. at North Portage Path and Sunnyside Avenue in West Akron.

Bird, prosecutors say, had been at a Highland Square bar and consumed a large amount of alcohol. He hit the rear passenger side of Holst’s car as Holst attempted to make a turn. Holst’s car spun and struck a utility pole.

Bird was driving 96 mph in a 35 mph zone and had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit, prosecutors say.

Sebastian Holst said during the sentencing that Bird drove a “4½-ton missile” and pointed it at his family’s car.

“Speed and recklessness made you a lethal weapon,” he told Bird.

Adriana Holst said she thought she was going to die after the crash. She suffered eight broken ribs, fractures in eight places in her pelvis and part of her spine, and a collapsed lung. The teen said her doctors told her they had never seen anyone survive such severe injuries without permanent and severe brain damage.

She said she has nightmares and awakens to the memory of the weight of Wilson’s broken body and his lifeless face an inch away. She feels guilty for surviving.

“I didn’t kill him,” Adriana Holst said to Bird. “You did.”

Assistant Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel said Bird was convicted of drunken driving three times before this crash. Just before the collision with Holst, Baumoel said Bird received a text from his girlfriend that said, “Where are you, you know you’re too messed up to drive.”

“He was going to hurt somebody or kill somebody,” Baumoel said. “It was just a matter of time.”

Akron attorney Larry Vuillemin spoke on Bird’s behalf, noting that he has known Bird since he was a child. He said Bird is a good man who is deeply remorseful.

“I have my own regrets,” Vuillemin said. “Was there something I could have done along the way?”

Vuillemin was among numerous people who wrote letters to the court on Bird’s behalf and attended his sentencing.

Don Malarcik, Bird’s attorney, said Bird had a difficult childhood and started drinking when he was 10. He said Bird’s mother died when he was 12 and he lived with his father and stepmother, both of whom were alcoholics.

Malarcik said Bird had his drunken-driving accidents during a difficult time when his father was dying of lung cancer and Bird had no crashes or drunken-driving charges in the past 15 years. He said Bird has had no alcohol since the crash, has joined Alcoholics Anonymous and has been getting psychological treatment.

Malarcik urged Rowlands to consider a six-year sentence, pointing to similar cases that netted two to eight years.

Bird said his decision to drive that night “haunts me every waking moment.” He said he struggled with what to say, knowing that “apologies aren’t enough.”

“I can’t seem to wake from this nightmare that never ends, not knowing how to help, not knowing what to say or do,” he said. “I stand here broken, asking all the people for their forgiveness.”

Rowlands sentenced Bird to eight years for the aggravated vehicular homicide and five years each for the two aggravated vehicular assault charges, with the terms to run concurrently, for a total of eight years. This is a mandatory sentence, meaning he cannot get out early. The judge also suspended Bird’s driver’s license for life.

The Holsts and the Wilsons have a lawsuit pending against Ray’s Pub, where Bird was drinking the day of the crash, that claims he should not have been served as much as he was. The bar and its owners have denied the allegations.

David Wilson, Grant’s father, said that he respected Rowland’s sentence and forgives Bird.

“I do believe it’s my duty to forgive,” he said.

Reach Stephanie Warsmith at 330-996-3705, swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com or on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.