TULARE, Calif. (KFSN) --It was a difficult day for the family of 9-year-old Elijah Villarreal of Dinuba was killed in a hit-and-run crash a year and a half ago.
Elijah's mother said in court Friday that even though he was just 9 years old, her son gave ten lifetimes of beauty. This was a sentencing for those who killed him, but really a sad day for everyone involved.
Sage Martinez was sentenced to 11 years in state prison for vehicular manslaughter with a special allegation of fleeing a crime scene. His older brother Anthony received the same punishment, plus one more year for dissuading a witness.
Judge Brett Alldredge read a letter written by Sage, saying how sorry he was and that the death of Elijah was an accident.
"No matter how much time the court sentences him and his brother," Alldredge said. "The guilt and the weight that they have on their shoulders will never leave. It was not intentional in any fashion."
On October 19, 2014, Villareal was playing in the street with friends when he was struck by a van that dragged him down the road. Had the vehicle stopped, Villareal's mother said it's possible that her son, an athletic but gentle boy, could still be alive today.
"Certainly part of what we considered was their behavior after," Alldredge explained.
There were others in the van, and Tulare County Assistant District Attorney Kerri Lopez says they lied to police by telling them that the driver was Anthony, not Sage. Sage was 15 at the time of the crash, Anthony 17, but both were charged and sentenced as adults.
"The facts of the case are extremely emotional given the age of everybody involved," Lopez said. "Given the tragic circumstance, how it happened."
Elijah's mother believes Sage and Anthony Martinez got away with murder, and as part of a statement to Action News, she said quote:
"These boys will have their three meals, free cable and their mothers will see them often. That is all stripped away from me. Justice? Where is the justice? Eli's rights were taken from him."