Teen driver who caused deadly wreck: ‘I ask God for forgiveness’

Alex Torrez hides his face as he addresses the court before being sentenced for the murders of his cousin, David Torrez, and Calvin College student Tara Oskam. (Jan. 9, 2018)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The teen driver who led police on a chase, causing a crash that killed his cousin and another driver, will spend decades behind bars.

On Tuesday, 17-year-old Alex Torrez was sentenced to between 28 and 60 years in prison.

Undated courtesy photos of Tara Oskam (left) and David Torrez.

“I want to tell all of you … I’m sorry,” Torrez, fighting back tears, told the families of the victims before his sentence was handed down. “I ask God for forgiveness every night.”

He was convicted last month on all 10 charges he faced, including two counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of his cousin, 15-year-old David Torrez, and 21-year-old Calvin College student Tara Oskam.

“There is one word that keeps going through my head: surreal,” Oskam’s father Robert Oskam said in court while Torrez wiped away tears. “I keep waiting for Tara to walk through the door and say, ‘I’m here.’ That will never happen again.”

“Because of the choices you made that night, you gave us a life sentence,” Oskam’s mother Deborah Oskam added.

On the night of March 11, 2017, a Michigan State Police trooper tried to pull Torrez over for speeding along US-131. But Torrez, 16 years old at the time and unlicensed, didn’t stop. He led the trooper on an about seven-mile chase with speeds topping 115 mph. The chase ended when Torrez ran a red light at the intersection of 52nd Street and Broadmoor Avenue in Kentwood and slammed into Oskam’s car.

She was killed, as was Torrez’ passenger, his cousin. Torrez was injured, but survived.

During Torrez’s murder trial, emergency responders described the crash scene as the worst they had ever seen, likening it to a crash involving a train or the aftermath of a bomb going off.

“I want you to understand that what you did that night has impacted a lot more lives than yours, David’s and Tara’s,” Oskam’s boyfriend Chad Beisel, who came upon the crash only minutes after it happened, told Torrez in court Tuesday.

“Never once did I think (she) was something I was going to lose,” Beisel said. “I’ll never get to put a ring on her finger. I’ll never get to marry her.”

The minimum sentencing guidelines in Torrez’s case were between 18 and 31 years. The maximum was life. Judge Paul Sullivan handed down a sentence that would prevent Torrez from being eligible for parole until he is 44.

“I believe in your heart that you did not intend for this to happen. But your actions were so outrageous,” the judge told Torrez as he explained his decision.

But for Oskam’s family, the sentence is cold comfort.

“There is nothing here I can do or say that will bring her back,” her father said.

“We know that God is a big God. … He is who we are clinging to. … He is our only hope,” Oskam’s mother said. “I can’t wait to hold her again.”