Of all the details that haunt Margaret Borcia about the boating crash that killed her 10-year-old son — the continued struggles of her other children who witnessed his death, the coroner telling her the body was too damaged for her to view or hug one last time — it's what she doesn't know that keeps her up at night.
"I can't stop thinking ... did Tony know" the boat was bearing down on him? Borcia said Thursday. "Did he want his mommy in the last moment?"
Borcia, her husband, James, and two of their three surviving children took the witness stand in a Lake County courtroom to describe how their once-idyllic lives were shattered last July 28, when a boater who authorities said was drunk and had cocaine in his system ran over Tony Borcia while the Libertyville boy was tubing with his father and siblings on the Chain O' Lakes. The boy died instantly.
The Borcias testified at the sentencing hearing for David Hatyina, the Bartlett man who was driving the boat at the time and who pleaded guilty this spring to aggravated DUI. Hatyina, 51, could receive up to 14 years in prison when his punishment is due to be announced Friday.
Whatever the outcome, it was apparent from Thursday's testimony that no amount of prison time would make up for the family's loss of a "beautiful child whose smile lit up the room. It conveyed how much he loved you and how much he loved life," James Borcia testified.
Tony's sister Kaeleigh, 19, described being "stuck in a state of mourning" and having to drop out of college temporarily.
James Borcia said all three of his children have struggled in school, and both parents described the anguish of having to admit their younger daughter Erin to a psychiatric hospital after she threatened to harm herself, an incident Erin herself also relayed from the witness stand.
"Hatyina did not just take Tony. He psychologically damaged our other children," Margaret Borcia said.
"This tragedy has become my life," James Borcia said. "I was the most blessed man on Earth until July 28."
James Borcia had been driving a boat that was towing his children on an inner tube on that warm, sunny day on Petite Lake near Lake Villa. Tony had fallen out of the tube and was bobbing in the water in a red life vest when his father and siblings noticed the motorboat speeding toward the boy.
The Borcias yelled and waved frantically, but James Borcia said the boater never slowed down or swerved and appeared not to have seen the boy at all before running him over.
During Thursday's hearing, Hatyina's defense attorneys also called officers who responded to the scene to testify, trying to raise questions about how intoxicated their client really was that day in hopes of minimizing his sentence. Prosecutors dropped a reckless homicide charge against Hatyina in exchange for his guilty plea.
Hatyina's lawyers also called another boater to the stand who had witnessed the crash and said the water was choppy that day with 3-foot waves, raising an implied question about whether Hatyina should have been able to see Tony bobbing in the water.
Hatyina sat quietly during the hearing. He bowed his head while a recording was played of a hysterical 911 call placed by one of Tony's sisters after the accident, which was described in grisly detail. On Friday, witnesses who will speak to Hatyina's character are due to take the stand, and he will be given a chance to make a statement.
Thursday, though, the courtroom was full of Borcia family supporters, many of whom wore buttons bearing Tony's picture and cried audibly during the family's testimony.