Before he was killed by a drunk driver in South Beach, Scott McGuire loved his job as a federal agent in New Orleans. Most of all, he relished his role as a dad to a little boy named Finn.
Early on, he never failed to craft homemade organic baby food. When Finn got older, McGuire enjoyed taking him on the street car to the French Quarter for po’boy sandwiches. When the boy developed a love of trains, McGuire took his son by rail across the country.
It was against this backdrop that 7-year-old Finn, dressed in a sharp light blue suit, appeared alongside his devastated mother to share their family’s story with the Miami-Dade judge tasked with meting out a sentence to the driver.
Finn’s mother, Suzy McGuire, told the judge the boy once said he didn’t want to cry in court because he “didn’t want to make that lady who hit Daddy upset or feel sad.”
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But the tears flowed on Wednesday as he and his mother showed off photos of him. “When they told me he went to heaven, I was so sad. I’m just a boy without a dad,” he wrote in a letter to the judge read by his mother.
The gallery was still. Fellow agents from across the country packed into the courtroom wiped tears from their eyes. Finn turned to walk out, squeezed his eyes shut and gasped in a muted cry, his mother’s arm draped around him tightly.
A few hours later, the judge sentenced former college student Jordana Rosales, 23, to seven years in prison for the drunken hit-and-run crash that claimed the life of the veteran U.S. Homeland Security investigations agent. She’ll also have to serve five years of probation.
“He was an amazing father to his son, Finn, and they were without a doubt best buddies,” Circuit Court Judge Michael Hanzman said. “Finn will now have to grow up without his best friend.”
Friday’s sentencing capped an emotional saga for McGuire’s family and fellow federal agents who packed the courtroom. The hearing came more than one month after Rosales pleaded guilty — with no plea deal — to vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident involving death and reckless driving.
Back in January 2016, Rosales and three friends had gone out in her Mercedes-Benz E250, hopping to two bars and a South Beach nightclub. They had round after round of drinks — Rosales drank at least six or seven gin-and-tonics.
That morning, after leaving the Wall nightclub, Rosales made a wide U-turn at the intersection of Collins Avenue at Española Way, nearly ramming into a taxi parked on the side of the road. She veered up onto the sidewalk and hit McGuire and a fellow agent as they were about to get into the cab.
McGuire, a Gulfport native who lived with his family in New Orleans, and the other agent were in town working an large-scale investigation that had led them to Florida. The other agent, identified only as J.B. because he works undercover, recalled making eye contact with the driver, whom he described as someone with long dark hair and an olive complexion.
“We were staring at each other, and there was recognition,” J.B. testified.
The accident left J.B. with a broken leg, a concussion and brain injuries. He struggles to remember simple details, like a grocery list or who he was supposed to e-mail. Neck pain makes sleeping difficult, as does the insomnia and searing headaches.
“My vision before was 20-20. It’s not anymore,” J.B. said. “I have spots all over my vision.”
J.B., a former soldier who used to enjoy “high-intensity” physical training and running in the mountains, added: “I’m unable to walk on hard surfaces, like at the grocery store, or sightseeing, for more than an hour,” J.B. said. “It’s intolerable.”
As for Rosales, her car’s windshield was significantly damaged, but she was not injured. Rosales took off south on Collins, never stopping. At 8:38 a.m, some six hours after the crash, police found the car at the luxury Mint condos in Brickell, thanks to a tip from the building’s security guard.
Initially she claimed that a tree branch had fallen on her damaged car. But during an interview with Miami Beach police detectives, Rosales broke down in tears, confessed and called it a “freak accident.”
“I freaked out. I didn’t know what to do so I left,” Rosales said on an audio confession played in court.
Prosecutor David I. Gilbert argued for a much stiffer sentence of at least 13 years, saying Rosales lied time and again about the crash and never expressed concern about the victims.
“This is the kind of callousness that is offensive,” Gilbert said.
Deciding a sentence for Rosales was no easy task — she had a promising academic future, had nary a traffic ticket on her record and had suffered her own share of tragedy.
At age 3, she survived a vicious dog attack in Honduras, leaving her face disfigured and requiring a series of plastic surgeries. Her biological father died when she was 13. Her mother, after moving to United States with her, worked three jobs, one as a housekeeper.
As a student, Rosales learned German, entered a program for gifted students and graduated cum laude while serving in numerous volunteer organizations.
“How many people, at the age of 16, would go take care of cancer patients at the hospital,” her defense attorney, Juan Gonzalez, asked the judge.
Rosales was later accepted on a scholarship to Florida International University, where she was studying biology with hopes of one day going to medical school.
Those dreams are gone. On Wednesday, she was taken into custody to begin serving her sentence.