Family Still Seeking Justice Three Years Later
The family of a 19-year-old girl killed by a drunken driver is demanding justice.
Just as they thought a three-year legal battle was ending, the driver and killer, Jose Fernandez, skipped out on sentencing and is on the run.
The birthday parties, school pictures, and dad and daughter dancing are the kind of photos that usually show the beginning of a young life and not the end.
Jessica Prieto, the victim's sister, said, "It is just hard not having your older sister there."
It was May 9th, 2005 when police showed up at Prieto's family home.
"They said that there had been a crash, a drunken driver and that it was my sister's black corolla and that there was a young woman driving it," Prieto said.
The young woman was her 19-year-old sister, Maritza de la Cruz.
Prieto said, "I graduated without having my sister by my side, I started college with her not by my side, I remember my graduation I was just crying."
Originally investigators thought Nolberto Gonzalez was the drunk driver, who ran a red light at Carlisle and Coal killing de la Cruz, but there was a twist to the story and it has proved to be a painful one for the family.
"We had a whole year going through this trying to blame one man when in fact it was another man, that never stepped up and never said it was him so he let this man take the blame for so long," Prieto said.
Originally Gonzalez was arrested, accused of drunken driving and vehicular homicide.
Prieto said, "It was not until December 2006 that we found out it was Jose Melo Fernandez."
Gonzalez's charges were lessened after an expert reconstructed the accident scene and discovered Fernandez was not a passenger but in fact the driver.
The case spent many more months in the courts before Fernandez pleaded guilty in September 2008.
Prieto said, "We thought we were done, we thought this is it, were done."
Friday, the family showed up at the courthouse with statements ready and pictures on poster board, but Fernandez, who's out on bond, did not.
"We were just devastated and we are not progressing so far, there still has not been justice for my sister," Prieto said.
The family is asking Fernandez to turn himself in, so they can be done with the case.
The other passengers in the car that night are also facing lesser charges, including tampering with evidence.