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'A true light in the world' | Texas A&M's legacy lives on with nonprofit organization in her name

Carly Beatty's life was cut short by a drunk driver in 2019. It took more than two years for the case to be closed, but her legacy will continue on.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Carly Beatty was a sophomore at Texas A&M studying to be a veterinarian when her life was cut short by a drunk driver. Days before she passed on, she told her mother, Sue, she was the happiest she had been.

Carly went to a party and was walking home with her friends in the early morning hours of September 14, 2019. The group was on South Texas Avenue near the intersection of University Drive, when an SUV hit Carly and without stopping or slowing down, the driver left the scene.

A witness, who had been on the phone with emergency dispatchers to report the driver just minutes earlier, continued to follow the SUV and reported to College Station police officers its location. The witness said the driver got out of the SUV and inspected the damage, then climbed back into the vehicle and drove away.

Officers were able to find the driver a few blocks away, in a parking lot. When officers approached him, they said he took off but due to his condition, was caught a short time later. When questioned why he ran, he told officers "I don't deal with the laws." He admitted to being drunk and high on cocaine, according to officers at the scene.

Carly was taken to the hospital, but died seven days later from her injuries.

The driver was later identified as Pedro Puga who was just 17. It took more than two years for Puga to admit what he did and stop the trial process. On February 21, 2022, Puga, now 20, was sentenced to 15 years after pleading guilty to manslaughter and accident involving death (also known as a 'hit and run' in this case). He also pleaded guilty to evading arrest.

Assistant District Attorney Brian Price said Puga will have to serve at least half of his sentence before he is eligible for parole. He has already received credit for time he has served. "There's no guarantees on what's going to happen," Price said when asked why a plea deal was offered. "The possibility if we had to come back a second time to try and get the appropriate punishment."

Price said prosecutors presented the deal to Carly's family. During the sentencing hearing on Monday, several family members were able to speak in court. Sue Beatty, who has kept a blog on the loss of her daughter for the last 2 1/2 years, said she will miss the memories she made with her daughter and the memories she won't ever get to make.

"We are relieved that the perpetrator admitted guilt and will be serving time," Carly's family said in a statement. "We are devastated that our beautiful daughter Carly had her life taken from her at such a young age and is now unable to fulfill her dreams of becoming a veterinarian."

Puga declined to speak at the hearing. Shane Phelps, who is Puga's defense attorney talked with KAGS on his behalf. "I can tell you this," Phelps said. "Damian (Puga) is terribly remorseful for what happened, despite the public clamor to just throw him away."

While the sentence does bring some sort of closure to the case, it is something that hardly brings peace to those who will continue to grieve. "They'll never have Carly back and there are some concerns about the trial and that laid into our consideration when talking with them."

Phelps said this case has also weighed heavily on him, especially when thinking about Carly and the future that was ahead of her. "That got to me throughout the entire thing," he said. "I have a daughter who is Carly's age and frankly just silently praying that I never found myself in that position."

In an effort to honor and keep Carly at the forefront of this story, her family has started a nonprofit animal rescue organization called Carly's Way Animal Rescue. Her family said Carly always had a special way with animals and from a young age, she knew it was what she wanted to do with her life. She wanted to save animals others had given up on.

Carly's Way offers several ways to help and is not based on financial resources. If you're not an animal lover but want to honor Carly's life mission, you can donate money or resources to the organization to help pets in need of medical care or a nutrition. You can sign up to be a volunteer or foster the animals that are in need of being adopted. Fostering helps potential families find out if they are a good fit for a furry friend. You can even purchase gear to help promote the organization and keep it going.

In a statement released Monday, Carly's family encouraged people to take a look at the organization as way to honor Carly and her work. It's the way Carly's friends and family hope she continues on and is remembered not by tragedy, but by the love and compassion she had for all living creatures.

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