A distracted driver who drove onto a sidewalk in Tierrasanta and hit two girls — killing one and seriously injuring the other — was sentenced to 11 years in state prison Friday.
Julianne Little, 31, was convicted in November of gross vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run. Jurors found that the defendant was distracted, but was not texting or fatigued when she struck the 10- and 12-year-old girls just before 6 p.m. last Feb. 20.
The younger of the two victims, Raquel Rosete, suffered a broken spine and a traumatic brain injury and was placed on life support. She died three days later. Her friend, Mekayla, suffered a broken ankle and concussion.
Jurors found that the defendant was distracted, but was not texting or fatigued when she struck the 10- and 12-year-old girls just before 6 p.m. last Feb. 20.
The younger of the two victims, Rosete, suffered a broken spine and a traumatic brain injury and was placed on life support. She died three days later. Her friend, Mekayla, suffered a broken ankle and concussion.
“These little girls did absolutely nothing wrong,” said Deputy District Attorney Melissa Vasel. just before 6 p.m. last Feb. 20.
The prosecutor said the defendant must have known that she hit the girls yet fled the scene anyway. Good Samaritans who happened on the scene were “horrified” by what they found, Vasel said.
When she came back to the scene with her father, Little lied to police about when she was on the phone before the accident, Vasel said. The prosecution’s position was that Little had just sent a text and was looking at her phone when she ran off the road and struck the girls.In sentencing Little to the maximum term, Superior Court Judge Lorna Alksne told the defendant that she lied on the witness stand and wasn’t remorseful. In her closing argument at trial, Vasel said Little knew she hit the girls while driving distracted.
Vasel said a number of people stopped to render aid after the crash, but Little drove to her home about two miles away. Little testified that she didn’t know she hit someone, but Vasel told the jury that she had to know because the younger girl’s body was right in front of her on the windshield when she struck the child.
The prosecutor said Little couldn’t wait to text a man named Rodney after he ignored 18 text messages from her the night before. Little told police she didn’t use her phone after sending a text from the parking lot after getting off work.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Charles Quirk told the jury that Little was tired and fell asleep while driving home. Once there, she told her father that she had been in an accident and they returned to the scene, he said. Little thought she had hit a car, Quirk told the jury.
A blood test for drugs or alcohol in Little’s system came back negative. Quirk — arguing for a seven-year prison term — told the judge that Little was guilty of ordinary negligence, not gross negligence. The attorney said Little cooperated with police when she came back to the scene and admitted being the driver who caused the accident.
The fatally injured child’s grandfather, Timothy Alforque, said Little only returned to the scene because she was followed home by witnesses.
“She made a conscious decision to leave them (the girls) in the bushes,” he said.
Friends and family said Raquel was a champion in judo and excelled in dancing.
“This is a girl who could have been anything,” said Robin Brumley, Raquel’s dance instructor. “This is a girl who we will not forget.”
Raquel’s father retired from the U.S. Navy in December 2015 after 26 years of service. The youngest of his five children was killed several weeks later.
— City News Service
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