A judge on Thursday sentenced a Simi Valley woman to community service for accidentally killing a Simi Valley teen-ager with her car last May.
Penelope Reeps, 55, had pleaded no contest last month to one count of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for running down Travis Peterson, 13, as he pedaled slowly through a crosswalk on Erringer Road near Royal Avenue.
Four of Peterson’s relatives, including his mother, told Municipal Court Judge Edward S. Brodie of their anger and sorrow before he sentenced Reeps.
“I will never be able to forgive her for what she has done,” Catherine Peterson said, tears streaming down her face. “I don’t hate Mrs. Reeps, but I’m very angry that she wasn’t paying attention.”
Reeps’ car was traveling at 40 m.p.h. when it plowed into the young bicyclist on May 5. He died two days later.
More than 40 friends, relatives and fellow parishioners wrote Brodie letters in support of Reeps, who did not have a criminal record before the accident.
“It breaks my heart when I see a case like this,” said Brodie, a former California Highway Patrol officer. “All of us are fallible and all of us drive in an unsafe manner sometimes. But for the grace of God . . . “
He sentenced a sobbing Reeps to 240 hours of community service, half of which will be served speaking to convicted speeders attending traffic school. The other half will be served volunteering with youth organizations in Simi Valley. She was also placed on three years probation and ordered to pay Peterson $1,430.
Reeps did not speak at her sentencing.
“If she had it in her power to change place with the Petersons, she would,” said Nancy Aronson, Reeps’ attorney. “Her own grief is more punishment than the court can ever give to her.”
Aronson told the judge that the Reepses have offered Peterson the proceeds of a $100,000 automobile insurance policy.
Reeps sat impassively until the boy’s uncle addressed the judge. “I want her to suffer. I want her to feel psychological pains,” Tom Abraham said as Reeps sobbed inconsolably. “I want her to have a hollow nauseous feeling in her gut every Christmas, Easter and Fourth of July.”
The judge rejected the family’s plea that he take away Reeps’ drivers license.
“I have no legal authority to do that,” he said.
Outside the courtroom, the boy’s grandfather said the family was pleased with the sentence.
“I think this will be a good thing for the community,” said Robert Abraham, adding that his family is now committed to educating the public about traffic safety.
Catherine Peterson has already convinced the Simi Valley City Council to erect a stop light at the fatal crosswalk, which is part of the Arroyo Simi Bicycle Path.
City Traffic Engineer Bill Golubics said the signal should be installed by the end of the year. He said city officials are still studying what to do with two other busy crosswalks along the bicycle path where Peterson also wants signals installed.