Driver sentenced for wrong-way crash that killed college student

CLEVELAND-- The man who killed a 20-year-old Cleveland woman in a wrong-way crash was sentenced Thursday afternoon.

A Cuyahoga County jury convicted Mark Rafter, 50, of aggravated murder, murder, felonious assault and aggravated vehicular homicide on Wednesday in the death of Kayla Coates. Judge Dick Ambrose sentenced Rafter to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

Coates' grandmothers and best friend addressed the court on Thursday. They described her as a sweet, funny young woman.

Julie Coates, the victim's mother, asked the judge to give Rafter a photo of her daughter as a reminder of the life he took.

“As I stand here in front of you today, I have one question for you,” Kayla’s mother told Rafter. “Why? Why did you choose to take my daughter’s life? If you wanted to take your own there were so many other ways, but instead you chose hers. You failed at taking your own life, but you sure did accomplish taking Kayla’s."

“I'm sorry to say, but if you're going to commit suicide, jump off a bridge,” grandmother Cathy Coates said. “Don't take an innocent child's life because you're miserable.”

Police said Rafter was driving the wrong way on Interstate 480 on the morning on Feb. 14, 2016 when he hit Coates' Ford Fiesta.

Coates, a student at Baldwin Wallace University who was on her way to work, was pronounced dead at the scene. Rafter was seriously injured and arraigned while in intensive care.

The investigation revealed it was a deliberate act by Rafter in an “apparent suicide attempt.”

"I'm sorry for what I did and it was never my intention to do that," Rafter said.

“She got justice today,” said father Scott Coates. “As a parent, you never want to bury your child. That's the hardest part. But now it's time to move on and remember the good things about Kayla.”

Continuing coverage on this story here