Costly coverup for hit and run driver who killed Fresno Army vet

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83-year-old Jose Rodriguez left behind a huge family-- 18 children and 120 grandkids. (KFSN)

As time came for punishment against the hit-and-run driver who killed an Army veteran crossing the street in his wheelchair, one of the victim's daughters made a tearful request.

"He took not only my dad, he took my best friend," said Tomasa Rodriguez.

83-year-old Jose Rodriguez left behind a huge family-- 18 children and 120 grandkids. He was trying to cross Cedar Ave. to catch a bus when a speeding car crashed into his wheelchair and sent him flying 80 feet in the air.

Rodriguez died from his injuries and what happened next may have cost the driver who hit him four years in prison. Eighteen months after his crime, Edgar Rueda owned up to it.

"I'm sorry for what I did," he said. "I'm ready to face whatever the punishment's going to be. I hope that they forgive me."

Forgiveness won't come easily for most of Rodriguez's family members. Rueda drove 25 mph above the speed limit on Cedar and crashed into the 83-year-old's wheelchair, leaving it in pieces and the family to pick them up.

Rodriguez had just visited one of his 18 children and was headed for a nearby bus stop to see another daughter when he died.

"Every time I see that bus go by and they lower the lever, I always look out thinking it's my dad coming off that bus," said Tomasa Rodriguez.

Rueda kept on driving after the crash and hid his car in three different places, trying to avoid arrest. Less than a month before, he'd admitted to reckless driving and agreed to follow all traffic laws to stay out of jail.

After family members turned Rueda in for killing Rodriguez, he reached a plea deal to avoid a hit and run conviction. A judge still could've sentenced him to probation for manslaughter, but two of Rodriguez's family members begged the judge to send him to prison-- for their sake and the sake of others.

"Who's to say that's not going to be another family member," said Francisca Rodriguez. "Or maybe next time it'll be someone riding with him that might fly out the window or get hurt."

The judge said Rueda clearly killed a wonderful man and damaged a huge family in the process. He sentenced Rueda to four years in prison and suggested he live the rest of his life as a monument to the man he killed.
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