"I hope to rebuild my life and not think of Mr. Schaefer to the best I can," 42-year-old Aaron Osheroff, of Novato, said outside a Marin County Superior courtroom after Schafer's sentencing this afternoon. "It's nice to know he is in prison and not driving around."
The May 27, 2009, crash killed Osheroff's 9-year-old daughter, Melody, who would have been 11 years old Monday. Osheroff was also hit and suffered massive injuries, and he lost his right leg.
Schaefer, 44, was convicted of second-degree murder and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for Melody's death. He was also found guilty of DUI, DUI causing great bodily injury, and mayhem regarding Aaron Osheroff's injuries.
Schaefer's blood alcohol content was between 0.11 and 0.16 at the time of the crash.
He was sentenced to consecutive prison terms for the murder and mayhem, and for an enhancement regarding a prison term he previously served.
Judge Terrence Boren stayed the sentences on the manslaughter and DUI charges, which means Schaefer will not have to serve time for them unless he violates his parole.
He must serve 24 years of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.
Melody Osheroff's mother, Kimberly Osheroff, said she was pleased Schaefer received the maximum term allowed by law.
"I'm satisfied, but I still wish it was higher," she said.
The Osheroffs lobbied in Sacramento recently for a bill proposed by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.
"Melody's Law" would have required the state to revoke the driver's license of anyone convicted of three DUI offenses. The bill did not move forward in the state Senate after it stalled during a hearing in the Senate's Public Safety Committee.
Schaefer has had nine DUI convictions since he was 17 years old, Marin County Deputy District Attorney Geoff Iida said.
Several members of the Osheroff family and their friends asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence as they recalled their fond memories of Melody, whom they called an angel, and spoke harshly of Schaefer.
Kimberly Osheroff said her daughter was "a book-loving, intelligent child with a bright future."
"She would be a pre-teen by now," she said. "She would have cared for us in our old age."
Aaron Osheroff called Schaefer a coward, a monster, a schoolyard bully, a sociopath, a murderer, an animal, and a selfish, drunk thug.
"He takes what people have because he has nothing," Osheroff said. "I feel this defendant will be in better company in a cage with other tough guys."
Family members also criticized Schaefer for his lack of remorse and a public apology.
At his first court appearance, Schaefer made an obscene gesture to the audience, but this afternoon he said he was sorry for the pain he caused and said he was devastated when he learned what happened in the crash.
Deputy Public Defender Michael Schroettner told the judge he knew his client would not get probation instead of prison, but he argued for less than the maximum term.
He said Schaefer had expressed remorse before and cried when he was told Melody died in the crash.
"He has been completely alone and scorned from the very beginning," Schroettner said. "It's difficult to be the subject of community-wide scorn and anger."
Schaefer moved more than a dozen times and attended 30 different schools while growing up, Schroettner said. He took primary care of his daughter, who is the same age as Melody, when he and his wife split up, and he volunteered at her school and at his church, Schroettner said.
Schroettner said Schaefer was exposed to drugs when he was eight years old and began drinking alcohol when he was 14, and he could never control the urge to use them.
But Deputy District Attorney Iida, arguing for the maximum term, told the judge Schaefer also had two domestic violence incidents.
Schaefer struck his wife in the mouth and nose with his closed fist while she was driving on one occasion, Iida said. He also beat her with a broomstick and punched her in the face while she was holding her daughter after he became angry when she woke him up because he had a phone call.
In sentencing Schaefer, Judge Boren said the case involved unintended consequences but wasn't an accident. He said Schaefer made the choices that led to the tragic crash and had many chances to change his behavior.
Boren said he "gave very little weight" to the difficulties Schaefer experienced while growing up.