By Eric Eganeegan@abcnews4.com
CHARLESTON, SC (WCIV) -- One year has passed since a 72-year-old Lowcountry woman was killed in a drunk driving accident on Interstate 26. Police say Samuel McCauley, at the time 19, was driving drunk the wrong way down the highway.
He hit Eleanor Caperton head on.
Caperton was driving home from her second job the night she was killed, July 24, 2011.
Recently, Caperton's niece Gina Buchardt, met with friends and family to remember her beloved aunt.
"We laughed, and we cried. I think I always will (laugh and cry) when it comes to talking about my aunt," Buchardt said.
A year after Caperton's death, Buchardt says she's still in need of some finality to the unexpected tragedy.
Court records show McCauley had a .208 blood alcohol level the night of the accident. He's been in jail since a court appearance in May, waiting for a sentence.
"My greatest fear is that he will get a light sentence, that it won't justify her death," Buchardt said.
Buchardt says she's grown tired worrying over the last year about how the court system prosecutes DUI offenders.
"It just seems like there should be a lot tougher DUI laws," she said. "You can basically commit DUI and kill someone and not have your license suspended. While you're being tried for it, you can still drive around. To me, it's amazing."
McCauley pleaded guilty to felony DUI and reckless homicide. A max sentence could get him 35 years in prison.
And for Buchardt, that may symbolize justice. She hopes people can also learn from the tragedy. She says that's what Caperton would have wanted.
"I think she would want young people to learn lessons about underage drinking, and drinking and driving. I think that would have been very important for her," Buchardt said. "Her life was worth something. He (McCauley) needs to serve the time he deserves, to pay for life that he took."
A pre-sentencing investigation was requested by McCauley's attorney. Once it's complete, he will be sentenced.
Both McCauley's family and his attorney refused to comment for this story.