Kirby soldier's family gets some justice after hit-and-run suspect sentenced to 10 years in prison

By Patty Santos - Reporter, Robert Samarron - Photojournalist

KIRBY, Texas - A Kirby soldier said his family got some justice Thursday when Judge Jennifer Pena handed the woman who struck him and left him for dead a 10-year prison sentence.

Marisa Ross pleaded no contest to the charge of failure to render aid and asked the judge to decide her sentence.

Ross told the judge she thought she hit a curb in the morning of Aug. 21, 2017. 

Matthew Belknap was on his bicycle on his way to work at Brook Army Military Medical Center when Ross hit him. He suffered extensive damage to his body and brain. The crash ended his military career, which was just starting.

"I still say I wish her no ill harm. There's nothing that can be done about what's happened to me, and I'm as good as I'll probably ever be," Belknap said after the emotional sentencing moment. "I don't remember what happened, but my wife and my kids had to live through it. And for that alone, she got what she deserved."

On the stand, Ross told the Belknaps: "I deeply apologize for what happened that day and what you've had to endure and are ongoing.”

Ross was reluctant to admit that she was drinking the night and morning prior to the crash.

Witnesses helped Belknap that morning and were able to help identify Ross' vehicle. But it was several hours later, before police were able to find her and arrest her, which is why police could not charge her with DWI. Her alcohol level tested at .019 at nearly 12 hours after the crash.

Ross' church family, neighbors and friends tried to plea for leniency, but in the end, the judge said Ross did not show remorse and needed to be held accountable for her actions.

"Mrs. Belknap lost her husband that day," Pena said.

Katie Belknap said she feels sorry for Ross' family, but no one wanted to see the reality of the actions that Ross' took.

"I was hearing every single question that was asked to Marisa. Nothing was a straight answer," Katie Belknap said. "It wasn't like, ‘I'm sorry. I own my stuff.’ She didn't plead guilty. She did not ever say, ‘Yes, I was drinking. I did it. I'm sorry.’"

Ross still has a charge of DWI for an arrest made about a month before the crash. She will be eligible for parole and since she has no prior convictions, she could likely spend little time in prison. Her attorney has six months to file a motion to reconsider the sentence she received.

The Belknaps welcomed a baby girl after the crash. Matthew Belknap has since separated from the military and has moved out of state.

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