SAN DIEGO — A driver convicted of killing a Poway father and son, Steve and Stephen Pirolli Jr., while under the influence was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison.
Donald Lee Farmer was found guilty of two counts of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
A downtown San Diego courtroom was full of emotions for the father and son who were baseball lovers and best friends. Several family, friends and loved ones told stories of how Farmer impacted them. Some of the loved ones spoke directly to Farmer.
“I’m here for my family and to see the person responsible, the man that caused all this, think about others,” said Edwin, brother-in-law and uncle to Steve and Stephen. “I will forgive you. I hope that you find a way in your heart to forgive yourself and make right to this family.”
The crash happened Feb.12, 2021. San Diego County sheriff deputies said Farmer was high on marijuana and Xanax when he drove 90 mph on Espola Road in Poway. Farmer then crashed into a vehicle occupied by 54 year-old Steve and 13-year-old Stephen as they left a baseball practice held at Poway High School.
The father died on the scene while the son died later at the hospital.
“So now, all I’m left with is two empty spots, in my heart, at the dinner table at family gatherings, on my couch on Sundays during Eagles’ football games,” said Olivia Pirolli, the niece and cousin to Steve and Stephen.
At the time of the deadly crash, the sheriff’s department said Farmer only had a learner’s permit. Under California law, those with a learner’s permit need to drive with a licensed driver who is at least 25 years old.
Farmer pleaded not guilty to two counts of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. A judge sentenced him to eight years in prison: six years for one count and two for the other. Plus, the judge sentenced Farmer to 180 days for misdemeanor driving without a license.
“Eight years is not enough time to be in prison for killing two people,” said Lorie Pirolli, the wife and mother of Steve and Stephen. “I am never going to get my husband and son back.”
Farmer sent an undated letter of apology to the judge. His lawyer also made a plea that Farmer dealt with childhood trauma that contributed to the tragedy happening.
“Throughout his childhood, Mr. Farmer’s parents abused alcohol and often neglected their son….he was a witness to domestic disputes, which impacted him greatly and impacted his development,” Farmer’s public defender said.
“He did something wrong,” Tom Pirolli said. “He knew it when he was doing it. There’s no excuse beyond that.”
Stephen Jr. had dreams to play professional baseball. Now, Lorie dreams for DUI laws to change.
“It seems like it’s in favor for the criminal. That’s the thing that really bothers me is that the law needs to change. We have to wait a second time around for him to do something bad, for him to be punished. He should be punished now at a higher sentence,” Lori said.
Both parties will be back in court Aug. 25 to decide the restitution amount owed to the Pirolli family.