BELTON — A drunk driver who killed a Killeen middle school custodian when his car careened into oncoming traffic in June 2010 was sentenced to 16 years in prison Friday.

John G. Garza, 42, was charged with intoxicated manslaughter in the death of Nancy Kivell. Garza could have faced up to 20 years in prison.

Garza was ordered to pay $14,200 restitution to Kivell’s family. Kivell’s daughter is suing Garza for wrongful death.

Judge Fancy Jezek of the 426th District Court sentenced Garza after hearing testimony from family members of Kivell and Garza. Garza’s family cried as Kivell’s family filed out of the court room silently.

Garza’s sentencing hearing resumed Friday after his attorney asked for more time to review the case on July 5. Attorney Michael White had recently come onto the case after Garza fired his previous attorney.

Garza attempted to change his guilty plea in the previous hearing. However, Jezek would not allow it.

Testimony began with Bell County Assistant District Attorney Paul McWilliams calling Kivell family friend Alicia Rathburn to the stand.

Rathburn witnessed the collision that resulted in Kivell’s death while driving home on Roy Reynolds Drive. She said Garza’s truck was swerving wildly.

He hit and drove up on a curb, Rathburn told the court, then over-corrected and drove into oncoming traffic.

He collided with a Geo Metro driven by Kivell. Rathburn initially called 911. But then she realized she recognized the car as one that had been parked on her street for years.

She approached the car and then began running toward the vehicle. Her husband met her and restrained her from going further. She told the court she knew Kivell was inside.

“I collapsed. I cried,” Rathburn testified. “She (Kivell) was a light. She guided us kids. She was always there.”

The prosecution rested after hearing from Kivell’s daughter and the assistant principal of Union Grove Middle School, where Kivell worked as the lead custodian.

Garza then took the stand. White began presenting evidence indicating that Garza had post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury from his time in the Special Forces serving in Iraq.

Garza repeatedly told the court that he was not pointing to his condition as an excuse, yet his defense was based around it.

“Not a day goes by that I wish it was me instead of Ms. Kivell who was the fatality,” he testified.

Garza told the court he was working on his car the day of the crash when a loud noise made him flashback to an instance where his company was being mortared. “I remember rounds bouncing on the windows (of his Hummer) and the ground and yelling at my gunner,” he testified.

He said he had no further memory of the day until he awoke in Scott & White Hospital in Temple.

Garza also claimed to be suffering through a flashback when he was arrested for drunk driving three months earlier in Comal County.

But after reviewing the dashboard camera from his arresting officer, he said he remembered some of the details of that night.

Family members later testified that Garza appeared to be a changed man after he returned from Iraq. The once gregarious and cheerful man was now quiet, somber and prone to mood swings. White presented a multitude of medications Garza now took as a consequence of his service.

Finally Garza’s wife, Claudia Marcella Mora-Pineda, testified. She pleaded for mercy, stating that Garza needed psychological help, not jail time.

“I need to support him,” Mora-Pineda told the court. “He’s not a simple person with an alcohol problem. He has a sickness, a mental illness.”

McWilliams argued that courts had already shown Garza mercy. Without the plea deal for a lesser charge in Comal County, McWilliams said he would have charged Garza with felony murder and sought a life sentence.

“He got the breaks,” McWilliams said. “Because he didn’t care, Nancy Kivell is dead. We need to let people know what the price of that is.”