Deadly drunk driver's apology sparks heated exchange

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The drunk driver who killed 40-year-old Jacqueline Rivera and 11-year-old Aaliyah Chavez in a fiery collision last November is headed to prison. (KFSN)

Rafael Pedroza's crime is unforgettable for those who saw it. He slammed into a Nissan Pathfinder then took off as it burst into flames, leaving witnesses to try and save the five people inside.
The drunk driver who killed 40-year-old Jacqueline Rivera and 11-year-old Aaliyah Chavez in a fiery collision last November is headed to prison.

Rafael Pedroza's crime is unforgettable for those who saw it. He slammed into a Nissan Pathfinder then took off as it burst into flames, leaving witnesses to try and save the five people inside.

A father and son got out, along with the son's girlfriend. Mother and daughter did not. But after accepting his punishment Friday, Pedroza hoped the crime was not unforgiveable, despite the deaths of Rivera and Chavez.

"Please forgive me," he told their family members. "I ask for you to forgive me."

That apology came only after the hearing ended. Pedroza actually said nothing as the victims' family shared the grief he caused them that night last November, five days before thanksgiving.

"We cannot have any more parties or get-togethers because there's no joy in doing that anymore," Jose Rivera said through an interpreter about losing his sister and niece.

Pedroza's blood alcohol content was .28% by the time police tracked him down, hiding under a bed in a home almost four miles from the scene of the accident. He admitted his crime quickly, and although he didn't speak to the judge in court, he wrote a letter expressing remorse. But Judge Jon Skiles took issue with a piece of the letter in which Pedroza called his crime a mistake.

"This was no an accident," the judge said. "This was a decision to drink to a level that was over three times the legal limit."

When Pedroza finally broke his silence, his apology fell short of giving the victims' family peace. Through an interpreter, they let him know they wanted answers.

"Once more, please forgive me," Pedroza said. "It was never my intention."

"But why did he flee when this happened?" the victims' family members asked. "He could've saved them. They could've been saved."

Pedroza never answered. He'll now serve more than 14 years in prison for two counts of DUI manslaughter.



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crimetrackercrimedrunk drivingdrunk driving deathDUIdui crashhit and runhit and run accidenttraffic fatalitiescar crashcar accidentcrashaccidentcourtcourt casefresnoFresno - Southeast
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