GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The mother of a woman killed in a wrong-way crash last year wept in court Wednesday, telling the driver responsible that her family lives with the pain of Willow Yon’s death every day.

The crash happened in the early hours of March 27, 2022, on US-131 near 28th Street in Wyoming. Authorities say Ashley Rodriguez-Hernandez was driving drunk when she entered the highway going the wrong direction and hit Yon’s car head-on.

An undated photo of Willow Yon. (Courtesy Ava Yon)
An undated photo of Willow Yon. (Courtesy Ava Yon)

Yon, 21, of Fowlerville, was taken to the hospital, where she died.

“We walked into that room at the hospital where my daughter was laying on a table and I couldn’t stand up anymore,” her father Paul Yon said.

“I want this court to feel the pain my family and I lived with every day,” Yon’s mother Denise Yon said at Rodriguez-Hernandez’s sentencing hearing in Grand Rapids Wednesday. “I wish to give you a glimpse of the hell we reside in, but I realize there are no words that inflict the magnitude of the loss that you, Ashley, have burdened us with through your selfish acts.”

Yon, a Kendall College of Art and Design student, was headed home from work when the crash happened. Hernandez-Rodriguez was returning from a birthday party.

“It wasn’t your friends who picked up those drinks and poured them down your throat. It was your hand. It was you who decided to put the keys in the ignition of the car and drive away. You and only you are responsible for the death of my daughter, Willow Rose,” Denise Yon said.

Rodriguez-Hernandez, who previously pleaded guilty to operating while intoxicated causing death, apologized to the Yons.

Ashley Rodriguez-Hernandez is sentenced on March 8, 2023.
Ashley Rodriguez-Hernandez is sentenced on March 8, 2023.

“I cannot explain how truly sorry I am for the loss of your daughter,” she said. “None of this was supposed to ever happen. Every day is also hard for me. I live with severe anxiety and depression due to my own actions. Every day I struggle to forgive myself for the pain I have caused you.”

The judge sentenced her to between 3.5 and 15 years in prison.

The Yon family was disappointed with the sentence and a plea agreement that led to it, saying Rodriguez-Hernandez, 22, should spend more time in prison.

“When Ashley gets out of jail, she’s going to be very young and she can still move forward with her life by doing good things. She can take care of her son. We can’t,” Denise Yon said. “Moving forward with the loss of Willow is extremely difficult.”

The family is calling on the state to install technology at entrance ramps in the area of the crash that detects if a driver is going the wrong way and alerts police.