Truck driver sentenced in crash that killed teen in Fresno County

The victim's family and judge said Andre Hill has not shown genuine remorse for his decisions the night of the crash.

Kate Nemarich Image
Wednesday, September 13, 2023
Truck driver sentenced in crash that killed teen in Fresno County
EMBED <>More Videos

After years of sitting in court, Olivia Mendoza's family says there is some relief in the sentence being handed down.

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- After years of sitting in court and reliving that traumatic night repeatedly, Olivia Mendoza's family says there is some relief in the sentence being handed down.

However, they still have to live each day without the teen they say was destined for greatness.

"Every time I come back, it's going back to that night, and that phone call, and it's hard. I'm glad I don't have to do that anymore, and I can start to move forward," said Christina Casarez-Trujillo, Olivia's Mom.

When the 19-year-old died, she had just started her second year studying criminology at Fresno State with big goals professionally.

"Some say if your dreams don't scare you, you're not dreaming big enough, but Livi dreamed very big," said Casarez-Trujillo. "She even talked of being the first female president, of being a leader, of changing the world."

She also was dreaming of her future.

"We were supposed to get married. She was going to be my bridesmaid, and I was hoping to be hers," said Rosie Ventura, Olivia's best friend. "We had plans to have kids."

Her loved ones said most important of all was who she was. That loss left a hole in their hearts.

"It's just so hard to go every day without her," said Jaime Mendoza, Olivia's Dad.

On September 27, 2019, Olivia was on her way to her dad's house.

Investigators said she was near Mountain View and Clovis Avenues in Fresno County when then-31-year-old Andre Hill ran a stop sign, sending his big rig into the Honda Civic Olivia was driving.

He failed a field sobriety test, but toxicology screening showed no drugs or alcohol in his system.

Prosecutors pointed to lack of sleep as the likely culprit.

The truck driver from Baltimore had logged less than 17 hours of rest over the four-and-a-half days before the crash.

He was ultimately charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

Hill only spoke briefly in court.

"I would just like to say I'm sorry for y'all loss," said Hill. "I wish I could have that event back."

Both the family and judge said he had not shown genuine remorse for his decisions that night.

"There has been a woeful lack of any appreciation of the behavior that caused the taking of a life that was on the verge of blossoming," said Hon. Houry Sanderson, Fresno County Court. "That behavior is unacceptable."

Hill was sentenced to two years in prison, and his license was revoked for three years.

After handing down the sentence, the judge spoke directly to Olivia's family.

"She's not lost, she's just not seen, but she's in your hearts," said Sanderson.

If Hill is paroled, he will need to remain in California.

If he wants to return to his home state of Maryland, he will need to work with the parole board.

He also agreed to pay about $11,000 in restitution to the family.

For news updates, follow Kate Nemarich on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.