An Anaheim woman whose car jumped a curb at an elementary school and killed two girls last year pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.
Through a Spanish translator, Maria Martinez Juarez, 51, looked down and said, “Guilty.” She wiped away a tear as her public defender, Jeremy Goldman, told the judge that Juarez accepted responsibility for the March 2002 accident.
“She wants the families to know how sorry she is,” Goldman said.
Juarez told police she had mistakenly pressed the gas pedal instead of the brake on March 12, causing her car to lurch forward and pin two children against a wall at Centralia Elementary School in Anaheim.
Nidia “Liz” Curiel, 6, of Anaheim died instantly. Bianca Jasmine Perez, 7, of Buena Park died later.
Juarez may receive up to a year in jail at her sentencing hearing April 1.
Two counts of speeding and two counts of negligence were dismissed Monday. The additional counts would have made the maximum jail time two years.
The Curiel and Perez families exchanged tearful hugs outside the courtroom. Patty Ruiz, Bianca’s aunt, said the families believed Juarez was getting off easy.
“If someone’s a criminal, they should be treated like a criminal,” she said.
Anaheim Assistant City Atty. Patrick M. Ahle said the guilty plea was “a very appropriate resolution.”
“It’s a tragedy for the family, whether it’s one year, two years, ten years or banished from the United States for the rest of their life,” Ahle said. “No sentence can bring their children back.”