BEAUMONT, Texas — Family and friends of beloved Beaumont Officer Sheena Yarbrough-Powell are happy to finally close the door on an emotional trial but feel the sentence the man found guilty of her death received was not enough.
Luis Torres will spend the next 20 years in prison after an intoxication manslaughter conviction. The 20-year-old Port Arthur native was found guilty of driving drunk and hitting and killing Officer Yarbrough-Powell on August 9, 2020, on Cardinal Drive.
Torres was 18 when the wreck took place and admitted to being blackout drunk. His blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit.
During the sentencing phase of his trial, Torres took the stand to apologize to the family of Officer Yarbrough-Powell. Hours after that apology, a jury came to a decision regarding punishment.
Beaumont Police feel the sentence was not enough. Prosecutors in the trial pushed for at least 30 years.
Prosecutors said Torres should never have been behind the wheel because he had no license and a habit of drinking.
"I have no sympathy for him,” Assistant District Attorney Waylon Thompson said during the sentencing phase.
Family and friends of Officer Yarbrough-Powell believe they are closing one chapter of their life that they described as “a living hell.”
"We're grateful for this chapter to be over,” Beaumont Police Officer Haley Morrow said. “It's extremely difficult for everyone involved but of course, mostly for Sheena's family."
Officer Morrow said Beaumont Police will do what they to keep Officer Yarbrough-Powell's memory alive.
“Every May we have our national police memorial, and we will do everything we can to keep her memory alive,” Officer Morrow said.
The cries of Officer Yarbrough-Powell's family could be in heard the Jefferson County Court House as they left the court room for the last time.
"You know, it’s just hard to hear people who are in such pain for such a big loss,” Officer Morrow said. “I’ve said over and over again that Sheena is, she wasn’t just another person."
Defense Attorney Tom Burbank said he knows the family wanted more than a 20-year sentence.
“They absolutely did,” Burbank said. “They thought Sheena, Sheena lived 23 years, and they got 20, and they are not happy with that. I get it. I wouldn’t be either, and I don’t think any of us would be."
Burbank said nobody won in this case.
“We asked the jury to decide because we could not agree,” Burbank said. “There are no winners in this case. Both sides are probably not happy, but I think the system that we asked probably worked."
Beaumont Police hope people will remember Officer Yarbrough-Powell. They hope her death serves as a reminder that life is fragile.
“I think what we just want people to remember is Sheena got a death sentence, and her family is going to serve a life sentence without her,” Officer Morrow said.