When Vincent Gimeno saw a neighbor raking leaves, he always rushed to lend a hand, his sister Sue Riedy told a packed Horry County courtroom.
"He was always the first one to help," she said.
But, Gimeno got little help two years ago after a driver struck him as he bicycled along Holmestown Road in February 2016. The driver fled and it wasn't until a passerby found Gimeno along the roadway that the 55-year-old had someone help him. He was taken to the hospital with numerous injuries. Gimeno's family took him off life support days later.
That fleeing driver , Laurence Flanegen, was sentenced on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to hit and run, duties of driver involved in accident with death.
Judge Benjamin Culbertson initially sentenced Flanegan to eight years in prison. Flanegan — a stout man who wore a blue shirt, green tie and khaki pants — showed little emotion as Culbertson spoke. His victim's family also showed little reaction. Flanegan's family and supporters covered their mouth and one cried seemingly in shock at the length of the sentence.
But, Culbertson suspended the full sentence, instead ordering Flanegan to serve 18 months in prison and then four years probation. He will also have to pay a $10,000 fine.
The state recommended a maximum 10-year sentence and Flanegan faced upwards of 25 years in prison.
Following the hearing, Flanegan's family cried and consoled each other in the hallway.
The Gimeno family said they were grateful the court proceedings were over, but were upset the judge did not impose a stiffer penalty.
"When we first heard the judge say the sentence was eight years, I felt a little bit appreciative of a sentence like that," Gimeno's sister, Mickey DeSalvatore, said. "Realizing now that he only has to serve 18 months then go on parole, is disappointing to us."
Gimeno's two sisters spoke of their brother as "kind" and "gentle." DeSalvatore said Vincent taught her how to drive. He was also proud of his nieces and nephews.
When she got word of the wreck, DeSalvatore traveled from Minnesota to Myrtle Beach to see her brother in the hospital.
"He was a mess, he had just about every broken bone in his body," she said.
Doctors told the family Gimeno was brain dead and was not going to awake from his coma. The decision to remove life support continues to haunt his loved ones, DeSalvatore said.
Sue Riedy said she felt like a mother to Vincent, her younger brother. He loved sports and never asked for a dime.
Thinking of her brother, alone dying along a road, drives her crazy, Riedy said . She added she has flashbacks to the incident when she sees a child riding a bicycle.
The Gimeno family also did not believe the defense's statements that Flanegan suffered from hypoglycemia caused by diabetes when he struck Gimeno.
"To me, Mr. Flanegan was a coward and only worried about himself," she said.
The defense said Flanegan didn't know he struck someone. Flanegan and his wife saw the damage to his car and determined he was in a wreck. They tried twice to report it to police and were brushed off. Flanegan could have tried to repair his car, but chose not to, his attorney Thomas Guest said.
"They never thought about it," Guest said. "They tried to do the right thing."
Guest said a prison term could be a death sentence for Flanegan with health issues and asked for home confinement.
Flanegan wanted to plead guilty since he was first arrested, Guest said. Flanegan told the judge that if he could, he would switch places with Gimeno. He offered apologies to the victim's family.
"This was an accident I would have never left that man on the side of the road, if I wasn't suffering the consequences of hypoglycemia," Flanegan said.
Riedy said her family never received an apology from Flanegan and they might feel different if he stopped to help Gimeno.
"He committed a crime," she said, "and that crime left my brother dead."