Preston Yahne had a big smile, an infectious laugh, a gift for gab and a memorable hug, his mother recalled Tuesday.
The 22-year-old Prosser man also was afraid of the dark and didn't like to be alone, so he always surrounded himself with loved ones.
But in June 2013, the two things Yahne feared the most happened when he was killed by someone he considered a friend, his body left overnight in a rural area of Prosser and then later stuffed in the dark trunk of his own vehicle, Angie Villanueva testified.
That friend, Robert B. McCorkindale, was ordered Tuesday to serve 17 years in prison for second-degree murder.
The 25-year-old Grandview man sat with his head down in Benton County Superior Court as defense attorney Alexandria Sheridan read his short letter.
"I would like to tell the family I am very sorry. I would also like to apologize to the court for the time that this matter has taken," McCorkindale's letter said. "I can never replace Mr. Yahne and my sorry will never be enough, but at this point that is all I can give."
Villanueva said no amount of prison time or "I'm sorry" statements from McCorkindale will ever bring back her baby boy.
"Preston will always be a missing piece in our hearts. We will always live and breathe for him," Villanueva told Judge Bruce Spanner. "Every day I see the pain of missing Preston in his dad's eyes, the emptiness in his sisters' voices when they speak of the day, and I watch as his son's mom struggles raising his son without his daddy."
"We will not spend our time and energy on this person wondering how and why he killed our son," she added. "What we will do is go forward and get through each day by praying that it will be a bright day in memory of Preston, because that's what Preston would want us to do."
Villanueva attended the hearing along with husband Joe, Yahne's twin sister Kortney and sister Sharrae Villanueva, and a dozen other relatives and friends.
Yahne loved little kids, was godfather to his friend's two daughters and was excited when he found out he was going to be a dad. He was killed three days before he and his girlfriend were to find out their baby's sex.
"Our grandson will never get to meet his daddy. This is how our grandson, Preston's son, got to meet his daddy," Villanueva said, showing Spanner a picture of the baby at Yahne's grave site. "Our grandson will never get to have his dad show him that amazing arm he had in baseball, or tell him about the Superman tackle he had in football.
"When he wants to have that father-son talk with his dad, he will have to do as I do every night and stand over his headstone and talk to his picture," she said.
Yahne was a 2009 Prosser High School graduate who went on to serve in the Air Force as a security police officer. He returned to Prosser and enrolled in Pasco's Columbia Basin College, with hopes of one day being a paramedic.
His uncle, Scott Hunt, said the more time Yahne spent with McCorkindale, the more he became involved in the darker side of life and made poor choices, like using drugs. Yahne attended counseling, went through a rehab program and the night before his death told his uncle he was optimistic about his future now that he was clean and sober, Hunt said.
The family last saw Yahne on June 13, 2013, when they attended Kortney's graduation from Yakima Valley Community College. He was supposed to join them the next day for a barbecue, but "that tomorrow never came" and that's when the nightmare started, his mother said.
Yahne met McCorkindale on June 14 and the two argued.
McCorkindale claimed Yahne tried to stab him with a box cutter, but he was able to disarm him and then stab Yahne in the chest with a knife.
McCorkindale stabbed Yahne several times before Yahne tried to run away.
McCorkindale chased Yahne down with his own car, running him over several times before leaving, Hunt said in court. He returned the next day, wrapped Yahne's body in a tarp, put it in the trunk and drove the car to a Sunnyside gravel pit, where he set it on fire.
McCorkindale and his then-girlfriend, Laura M. Bancroft, were arrested a few days later in Grandview.
Bancroft was sentenced in Yakima County Superior Court to one year and one month in prison for admitting she helped cover up Yahne's death with the arson. Prosecutors granted her immunity in Benton County so she could testify against McCorkindale.
But McCorkindale pleaded guilty Sept. 18 to second-degree murder. A first-degree murder charge was reduced because a judge found Yakima County sheriff's detectives violated his right to a lawyer after his arrest and threw out his statements.
Prosecutor Andy Miller said Tuesday that Yahne's family and the Benton County sheriff's detectives on the case supported the plea agreement.
"What he did to my family is unforgivable," Kortney Yahne said as she choked back tears in court. "Robert was able to continue having a life and is continuing to breathe, and my twin will never have that because of Robert."
Spanner said "a terrible wrong" has been done to the family and the community and that McCorkindale should realize the ripple effects of his actions.
McCorkindale could be more than 40 years old before his release from prison, depending on his behavior while behind bars.
"Some will say the best part of your life, the same part you took from Mr. Yahne, will be behind you," Spanner said.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; email@example.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer