A 31-year-old pickup driver–who fled the scene in Anaheim after mowing down a mother of seven riding a bicycle to go feed the homeless–was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison.
Junior Rigoberto Lopez pleaded guilty in April to hit-and-run with permanent and serious injury for hitting 44-year-old Daniella Palacios with his truck around 9:10 p.m. Nov. 1 near La Palma and Magnolia avenues, briefly stopping and then driving off. "Instead of stopping to assist the victim or calling 911, Lopez failed to remain at the scene or render any aid to the victim and fled the scene," says the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA).
Responding Anaheim Police collected broken pieces of a front grill and headlights from Lopez's truck, and the department later publicized through the media images of the pickup that were pulled from nearby surveillance cameras.
Palacios, who had been briefly homeless and frequently supported such folks, was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange to be treated for broken ribs, a broken right clavicle, head trauma, left lung filled with blood, and internal bleeding. She died about 1 a.m. on Nov. 2, leaving behind her seven children and between the ages of 9 and 28 at the time and 11 grandchildren.
Prosecutors say Lopez drove to Mexico after the collision to get his white 2013 Ford F-150 extra-cab pickup repaired and then retrieved it on Dec. 11. A tip from Orange County Crime Stoppers, the anonymous crime reporting service, brought him to the attention of Anaheim Police. Lopez was contacted on Dec. 15 and asked to bring his truck into the police station. An inspection discovered new parts, including the front grill, both headlights, and repairs to the hood. On Dec. 18, Lopez was arrested.
Elena Garcia, who is one of Palacios' daughters, told Orange County Superior Court Judge Scott Steiner in June that she understood the collision was an accident but "can't
seem to understand how a person can drive away without any sense of remorse. I constantly ask myself why a person would do such a horrible thing."
"I'm not going to say I hate (the defendant)," Palacios' mother Julie Lopez told Steiner, "but he needs to pay the consequences."