Repeat DUI Driver Gets 15 to Life for Collision that Killed Orange County Pregnant Woman

Repeat DUI Driver Gets 15 to Life for Collision that Killed Orange County Pregnant Woman

File photograph of a judge's gavel. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images)

City News Service

City News Service

4/14/2024

Updated: 4/14/2024

SANTA ANA, Calif.—A Garden Grove woman was sentenced April 12 to 15 years to life in prison for running down a 23-year-old pregnant woman in Anaheim.
Courtney Fritz Pandolfi, 44, pleaded guilty Feb. 6 to second-degree murder and a felony count of driving under the influence of a drug causing injury, along with misdemeanor counts of driving on a suspended or revoked license due to a DUI, driving under the influence of a drug and possession of drug paraphernalia. She also pleaded guilty to drug charges while in custody, according to Deputy District Attorney Brian Orue.
The crash occurred just after 7:30 p.m. Aug. 11, 2020, on Katella Avenue near Bayless Street.
Yesenia Lisette Aguilar of Anaheim, who was 35 weeks pregnant, was walking on the sidewalk with her husband when a white Jeep SUV jumped the curb and struck her, police said.
Paramedics took the woman to UCI Medical Center, where a caesarean section was performed to deliver the baby, police said.
After Friday’s hearing, Mr. Orue pointed to the victim’s husband, James Alvarez, who was holding the couple’s 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Adalyn Rose, as a “miracle that emerged from this case.”
Mr. Alvarez told Ms. Pandolfi during the sentencing hearing that his daughter “lost big,” and that he wanted the defendant to “share the pain I carry.”
He told City News Service, “I want us to share the same hurt.”
He told the defendant he hopes she finds the help she needs for her addictions while in prison.
“I do sense her guilt, but it’s not enough for me to forgive,” Mr. Alvarez said. “If I see change in her and trying to change her ways and that she’s seeking help ... then I'll finally start to forgive. It will show remorse.”
Ms. Aguilar and Mr. Alvarez took about two years to conceive, he said.
“It was the biggest blessing,” he said of the pregnancy.
The two began taking their health more seriously and part of that was going on walks, he said. On the day of the collision, the two took a “different route and it cost my wife’s life,” he said.
Ms. Aguilar was also days away from taking a state board test to become a hairstylist.
Ms. Pandolfi “took her dream away,” he said. “She took all the wishes to be a mother and a hairstylist away.”
For him, she “took a wife away that I wanted to grow old with,” he said.
Mr. Alvarez has tried to use the tragedy to share inspirational words on social media to help others going through an unexpected tragedy. He said he would continue to sound the alarms about the dangers of impaired driving.
Mr. Alvarez told reporters at a news conference that, “I was given a second chance at life. I could have died that day too.”
He noted how after the collision when his daughter was in the intensive care unit he was inspired by her struggle to live.
“If she’s fighting for her life why can’t I fight for my life,” he said.
He said he memorializes his wife on social media to leave behind a sort of public diary for his daughter.
“I wanted to honor my wife as much as possible,” he said.
Someday, Adalyn will wonder about who her mother was, he said. And, he added, he can point to the photos of her and say, “This is her legacy. ... I want you to honor her and carry her legacy and be proud of the mom you had.”
He also said, “I hope she sees my strength as a father, as a widower” who overcame his grief to carry on.
Ms. Aguilar worked as a ticket-taker at Disneyland, which was a great perk for Mr. Alvarez, who is a Disney fan, he said.
Ms. Pandolfi was charged with second-degree murder instead of voluntary manslaughter, which does not carry a life sentence, because Ms. Pandolfi was previously convicted of DUI and was given a so-called Watson Waiver, which warns DUI offenders that if they get into a deadly collision, they face the upgraded charge of murder.
Ms. Pandolfi pleaded guilty on April 24, 2015, to possession of a controlled substance, being under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving under the influence of a drug, all misdemeanors.
She pleaded guilty July 8, 2016, to a felony count of identity theft, and misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence of a drug, falsely representing herself to an officer, being under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance.
When Ms. Pandolfi pleaded guilty to killing Ms. Aguilar in February, her attorney, Fred Fascenelli, said she wanted to spare the victim’s family the anguish of a trial. The defendant has also taken steps while in jail to manage her addiction issues, Fascenelli said.
Copy
facebooktwitterlinkedintelegram
California Insider
Sign up here for our email newsletter!
©2024 California Insider All Rights Reserved. California Insider is a part of Epoch Media Group.