She was a radiant 25-year-old, still wearing her lavender bridesmaid's dress and pearl necklace when the end came too soon.
But after 13 years, the family of Kristen Nemec finally saw justice Friday -- and that necklace again. The pearls had to be extracted from the windshield of a BMW driven by the drunk who had killed her.
Prosecutors returned the necklace as her killer was sentenced in Manhattan Supreme Court to 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison.
"The hole in our family was that much deeper and sadder over the past dozen years because each time we were reminded of Kristen's absence, we were further slapped with the reality of her killer's freedom," said her father, Richard Nemec.
After jumping bail and fleeing to Ecuador, drunk driver Jose Heras was finally in a courtroom tearfully apologizing.
"I am really, truly sorry," he said. "I'm here today to be responsible for my actions."
Nemec, a California girl, was an engineering student at Virginia Tech, when she traveled to Manhattan for her sorority sister's wedding at the University Club in May 1997.
Just hours after the wedding, she was crossing West Houston and Wooster streets when the speeding BMW mowed her down.
"May Kristen's soul finally rest in peace knowing the individual who cut her life so short will serve at least some of the time in state prison that he so aptly deserves," said her father.
"Although time may pass, the wheels of justice keep turning," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.