Widow speaks to driver who left husband to die

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On June 10, 2012, Mark Gobble left his wife Leslie a note for her to read when she woke up.

On June 9, 2014, Leslie Hussey told a packed courtroom what the note said.

“He said he was going for a walk and he would come back and have breakfast and then we would go swimming,” Hussey said through a sign-language interpreter.

But that summer day intended to be spent at the pool with the kids was the day Mark Gobble died. While on an early morning jog, he was hit by a driver who kept on going.

On Monday, Leslie was presented with the moment two years in the making: She got the chance to speak to the driver who left her husband to die.

“You entered our lives and took my husband away,” she said to Roman Turullos-Gonzalez during a sentencing hearing.

Turullos-Gonzalez has pleaded guilty to failure to stop and render aid.

“It has been horrible. There is a huge hole in our lives.”

But rather than just tell Turullos-Gonzalez just how huge a hole, she also decided to show him. A one-minute picture montage was entered as evidence. The montage showed pictures of Gobble and Hussey’s wedding day, birthdays and vacations.

It also showed two children.

“My children have fear and anxiety. My son is unable to talk at all about his father,” said Hussey while on the stand. “We walk that sidewalk all the time and thought it was safe.”

The picture montage led to several tears in the courtroom audience, and Hussey had words for Turullos-Gonzalez when he himself appeared to get emotional.

“You may cry, manipulate, but your actions show the truth of your character,” said Hussey.

Day 1 of sentencing included testimony from the witnesses who first arrived at the crash scene along with investigators, but Hussey and Gobble’s mother provided the most emotional testimony.

“I never dreamed my baby would die,” said Gobble’s mother Darlene.

The audience was filled with nearly three dozen members of the deaf community who were wearing buttons with Gobble’s face on the front. As a teacher at the Texas School for the Deaf, Gobble was a respected member of the deaf community.

This case is one of a handful that led to changes in the Failure to Stop and Render Aid law. Cases where a death occurs now carry a punishment equal to intoxication manslaughter, essentially taking away possible incentives for an intoxicated driver to leave the scene.

Another case contributing to the change in the law was the 2011 hit-and-run crash that killed Courtney Griffin in Tarrytown. Griffin’s father Bart worked with the Gobble family to help change the law and was present in the courtroom on Monday.

The new penalty range is 2-20 years in prison, but Turullos-Gonzalez’s case is still being tried under the old law which places punishment at 2-10 years. Judge David Wahlberg will determine that sentence and could opt for probation although Hussey does not think it would be appropriate.

“I am not sure probation would send the right message to the community.”

A probation officer testified Turullos-Gonzalez missed multiple appointments and tested positive for marijuana use in the weeks leading up to sentencing.

A decision on a sentence is expected Tuesday.

Landmark case

Gobble’s death and the death of Courtney Griffin helped change hit-and-run laws in Texas.

In 2011, Gabrielle Nestande killed Griffin with her car and drove off. A jury convicted Nestande of negligent homicide and she server six months in prison.

Hit-and-run laws used to carry lower penalties for drivers who sped off after a crash. But, last September, they changed in effort to discourage drivers from leaving the scene.

Cases of failure to stop and render aid are now charged a second-degree felonies, the equivalent of intoxication manslaughter. Punishment ranges from 2 to 20 years behind bars. The old sentencing guidelines called for a maximum of 10 years behind bars.

 

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