‘We have suffered for 1,044 days.’ Family of cyclist killed in hit-and-run confront driver in court

Kayruz family members urge defendant Melissa Peoples to serve her full 15-year-sentence, refuse parole

The family of a well-known San Antonio surgeon killed in a 2019 hit-and-run crash reminded the woman convicted about the pain they continue to suffer during her sentencing Tuesday.

SAN ANTONIO – The family of a well-known San Antonio surgeon killed in a 2019 hit-and-run crash reminded the woman convicted about the pain they continue to suffer during her sentencing Tuesday.

Melissa Peoples was found guilty of intoxication manslaughter and failure to stop and render aid before being sentenced to 15 years in prison for the death of Dr. Naji Kayruz.

After she pleaded guilty on Nov. 30, Peoples spoke out after being silent for three years with a public apology to the Kayruz family.

However, the family felt the apology was insincere.

“That apology came three years too late,” said Sandra Vasquez-Kayruz, the victim’s widow. “You had multiple opportunities to apologize to me in person these past three years. You could have even mouthed an apology to me,” she said during her portion of the victim impact statements.

Afterwards, Vasquez-Kayruz continued along those lines.

“That apology was focused on herself as the victim instead of acknowledging that my husband was the true victim and we were the victims of her crime,” she said. “It was unfair that she brought up domestic violence as a reason (for) behind being behind the wheel drinking. It is also unfair that her husband didn’t have the opportunity to counter that. A lot of what would have come out during a trial didn’t come out, which is why I touched on a little bit of it during my statement.”

In her statement before the court, Vasquez-Kayruz referenced Peoples’ previous arrest for DWI

She also referenced the defendant’s record and how she believed Peoples knew what she was doing at the time of the crash.

“A witness who was driving behind you told me she witnessed my husband’s body fly up as high as one of the power lines, and land about 40 feet from the initial impact,” Vasquez- Kayruz said. “You had a cracked windshield from the impact of my husband’s body and you had his blood splattered on your white BMW. You first spoke out saying you thought it was debris you hit. How dare you compare my husband’s body to trash!”

Anthony Kayruz, the victim’s son, also spoke during the victim impact statements.

“What 1,044 days have given me is 1,044 opportunities to relive that night,” he said while recounting the night he got the devastating call. “We have suffered for 1044 days and will suffer forever more. Would you believe me if I told you that you killed the best person I have ever known? Believe me!”

Anthony Kayruz went on to speak about the many memories he cherishes with his father, who had a major impact on the community athletically and medically.

“There is no healing from a loss like this,” he said. “There is only living with the pain and enduring it. A witness told me that after you struck him, his body flew higher than the power lines before crashing into the street below him. I can only wonder if he was still alive while he was in the air. What was he thinking about?”

He shared how Dr. Kayruz was his biggest supporter and who continued to teach him many lessons in life. He spoke about the last memory he had with his father in New York. Anthony Kayruz talked about the last text message he received from his father.

“It said, ‘Stay warm AK,’ which are my initials,” he said. “He would watch the weather in New York and would send me that on cold days. The last time I saw him, he was so happy and I was so happy. Like grasping a rose with thorns, that memory of my dad is beautiful but it comes with pain. I realize I don’t want memories. I want him.”

The family also spoke about the grave impact drunk driving has had on their lives and how they are disappointed in the justice system.

“When you chose to drink and drive, and let me emphasize, ‘chose’, for no situation forces a person to get behind a wheel drunk. You chose to gamble with your life and selfishly gamble with others,” Anthony Kayruz said. “Your consequence is but a raindrop compared to the flood we are drowning in.”

Because Peoples’ deadly weapon charge was dropped, she only has to serve one-quarter of her sentence before she is eligible for parole.

With good behavior and credited time served, Peoples may be released in the next three to four years.

The family said that is not justice to them.

“He saved lives,” Vasquez-Kayruz said. “You took a life. He would have stopped and rendered aid. You left the scene and tortured us for three years until the deadline of a plea bargain. If you are truly remorseful for killing my husband, I pray you do the right thing and serve your full 15 year sentence and refuse parole. Fifteen years is a small sacrifice for the 40 plus years you took away from my husband and for the devastation you have brought my family and this community.”

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About the Authors:

Japhanie Gray joined 10 News as an anchor in March 2022.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.