Freida Pineda’s family described her as an intelligent 14-year-old girl with a brilliant smile that lit up the rooms she walked into. The Dutcher Middle School eighth-grader had plans to graduate from Turlock High School and hoped to become a doctor like her grandfather.
But her hopes, along with her smile, were erased eight months ago, her family told a judge Friday. She was killed when a drunk driver in a pickup crashed into the car she was in. Her cousins, Rebecca and Kendra Murillo, were in the car with her and were seriously injured.
“My body is still in shock, and my heart is filled with holes,” Rebecca Murillo wrote in a letter that was read in court by a prosecutor. “I wanted to believe that she wasn’t really dead.”
Freida’s family and friends were given a chance to speak in court before a judge formally sentenced Kevin Hernandez Solis, 21, of Turlock to seven years and four months in prison for the deadly crash.
Solis did not speak in court during Friday afternoon’s hearing. He sat quietly next to his attorney in the courtroom, only speaking when the judge asked him a few questions.
Aaron Villalobos, Solis’ attorney, said his client hopes he can move forward in a positive way to prevent any future DUI-related crashes. He said Solis wanted anyone who may drink and drive to know that “they cannot fathom the potential consequences, and it is never worth it.”
“I know Kevin wanted to express his deepest sorrows to the family of Freida, Kendra and Rebecca,” Villalobos told The Bee after the sentencing. “He has expressed to me that he would give his life to bring back Freida.”
Solis on July 3 was convicted of three felonies that stemmed from the Dec. 14 wreck in the 100 block of East Monte Vista Avenue in Turlock. He pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with gross negligence, and two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury.
The crash was reported about 7 p.m. Freida was in a white Toyota sedan with her cousins. The pickup hit the sedan, before it struck a nearby carport and a parked vehicle, according to Turlock police. Solis was found just outside the pickup with minor injuries.
Rebecca Murillo said Solis’ pickup was speeding and crashed into their car like it wasn’t even there.
“It was as if our car was like a soda can; it was crushed,” she wrote in the letter to the judge.
She said she doesn’t forgive Solis for choosing to drive drunk and not showing any regret for what he did or asking for forgiveness.
“I hope you can be man enough to ask Freida and God for forgiveness,” Rebecca wrote in her letter.
Deputy District Attorney Diane Von Der Ahe, who prosecuted the case, has told the judge that Solis’ pickup was speeding, about 76 mph in a 45 mph zone. Von Der Ahe said Solis had been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana before he got behind the wheel that night.
The family described the severe injuries the Murillo sisters suffered. They were both listed in critical condition shortly after the crash in intensive care units at two Modesto hospitals. They have recovered from their injuries and attended Solis’ sentencing, but they said the anguish from the night of the crash still lingers.
Kendra wrote in a letter that they had left that night to grab some dinner. They had planned on watching movies and putting up a Christmas tree, but their night took a tragic turn with the crash.
Citali Ortiz, Freida’s aunt, said in court that she has endured a tremendous amount of guilt. Frieda’s parents had returned to Mexico, but their daughter wanted to remain in the United States, where she was born and spent most of her childhood. They allowed her to live with her aunt.
“She had entrusted in me her only daughter,” Ortiz said in Spanish about Frieda’s mom. “I can feel the intense pain she has.”
Arianna Corrales said her daughter was happier in Turlock, and she knew her daughter would have opportunities to thrive in this country. She said her daughter had so many dreams, and she wishes Solis could understand what he has done to her family.
“I’ll smile if I have to, but that is just an act,” Corrales wrote in a letter read in court.“
Omar Pineda expressed more anger toward Solis. He said the defendant’s sentence doesn’t feel fair to his daughter. He said he prays to God that he can get rid of the hate and resentment he feels for Solis.
“By killing our only daughter, you killed all three of us,” the father wrote in a letter to the court. “This is a pain that kills me, day by day, very slowly.”
Solis pleaded guilty to all charges and admitted all the enhancements listed in a criminal complaint filed against him. As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, enhancements to his charges were dropped. His sentence was the result of that plea agreement.
The charges the defendant pleaded guilty to indicate that Solis’ blood alcohol level was at least 0.15 percent. The prosecutor told the judge that Solis’ blood alcohol level was 0.19 percent, which is more than twice the legal limit.
Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Robert Westbrook told the victims’ family that he’s sorry he can’t help ease their pain, “... no words that can end your nightmare.” He also said there’s no measure of justice that can bring back Freida.
“As a father of two girls myself, I can only imagine the pain you’re suffering,” Westbrook told the family.
The judge said the family’s statements in court had a profound impact on him, and he told Solis that he hopes he took those words to heart. Westbrook said Solis still has a lot of potential in his life, telling the defendant that he can warn others about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Solis — who was jailed after the crash and later freed on a $100,000 bail bond — was handed over into the custody of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department immediately after Friday’s hearing. He will be later transferred to a state prison to serve his sentence.