Posted on Fri, Mar. 09, 2012 06:33 PM


A Jackson County judge sentenced a 19-year-old Mexican man Friday to 15 years in prison for driving drunk and killing a Belton woman and her 11-year-old daughter last year.

Felix Solano-Gallardo admitted in January that he was driving the wrong way on Interstate 435 near 63rd Street when he crashed into a car carrying Diane Bronson, 44, and her daughter, Anna Bronson.

He also admitted that his blood-alcohol level that day was more than twice the legal limit.

Tearful family members shared memories Friday of the pair, who died on their way to breakfast with their family, with plans to later attend an Independence Day parade.

Some of her family learned of their deaths at the end of the parade, when Bronson and Anna never appeared.

“While we were eating and enjoying ourselves, they were on the highway, dying,” said Annette Murray, Bronson’s sister.

Still, Murray wanted her sister remembered as a woman who was “loving, kind, quick with a smile, a hug and an encouraging word.”

Bronson’s mother, Dorothy Campbell, described how her daughter became a nurse after seeing the caring treatment that one of her sons received during repeated hospital stays for leukemia.

“Diane was filled with love and cared for people,” Campbell said.

Buddy Bronson, Diane’s husband and Anna’s father, said he still hasn’t come to terms with the death of his wife and daughter.

“When I see the school bus around the bend, I go back inside and cry,” he said. “I had my first biological child at (age) 44. That’s something you don’t take for granted.”

Solano-Gallardo, no longer using a wheelchair because of his own injuries from the accident, did not plead for mercy in his statement to Judge Charles McKenzie.

“I am aware I caused a lot of harm,” he said through an interpreter. “Honestly, I wish none of this had ever happened. What happened to this woman and her little girl hurt me as if they were my own family.”

Assistant Jackson County Attorney Brady X. Twenter asked for a 24-year sentence, saying Solano-Gallardo had taken too much from the family and the larger community. And though the defendant had no formal criminal history, Twenter asked the judge to consider his status in the country.

“The defendant is not legally in this country,” Twenter said. “There was a law broken.”

Solano-Gallardo received two 15-year sentences, which will run concurrently.

Police said they believed Solano-Gallardo had been driving the wrong way for at least 14 miles because they think he ran a driver off of Interstate 70 into a concrete median near Harrison Street earlier. The victim told police the driver drove at him from one side of the highway to the other and appeared to be trying to hit him, police said.

At least nine motorists called 911 to complain about a wrong-way driver on I-70 or I-435 that morning.

His correct name and age were unclear throughout his prosecution. Immediately after his arrest, he gave investigators the Solano-Gallardo name, though he later told immigration officers that his correct name was Luis Solano-Barrera. Under that name, he also gave a birth date that would have made him 23 years old.

But under oath at his plea hearing, he said his name was Solano-Gallardo and that he was 19 years old.

After the hearing, Tyler Russell, Bronson’s son and Anna’s 20-year-old step-brother, seemed resigned to the Solano-Gallardo’s sentence.

“The fact he gets to go back to his mom and sister, and I can’t, is not justice in my opinion,” Russell said.

One Old Vet

Drunken driver sentenced to 15 years for killing Belton mom, daughter -