SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A teacher from Los Angeles who was behind the wheel of a stolen car that struck and killed an 18-year-old woman walking on Interstate 805 near Normal Heights was sentenced Wednesday to a year in jail for the hit-and-run collision.
Armando Figueroa, 36, pleaded guilty last month to hit-and-run causing death, auto theft and possession of a stolen vehicle.
Superior Court Judge Charles Gill said Figueroa surely would have been sentenced to prison had he been convicted at trial, but the defendant's acceptance of responsibility and sincere remorse warranted the probationary sentence.
Gill imposed, but suspended, a prison sentence of three years and eight months for Figueroa, which would only be executed should the defendant violate probation in the next three years.
Prosecutor Kristie Nikoletich argued unsuccessfully that Figueroa should go to prison, saying the death was an accident but the defendant's crime was leaving the scene of the March 13 collision that killed Teresa Amor Marquez.
Nikoletich said Figueroa drove 10 miles before pulling over to check for damage to the car he had stolen from the mother of his child. Figueroa had to know that he had struck a person because there was hair in the shattered windshield, the air bags had deployed and there was blood in the car, Nikoletich said.
The defendant also lied to police who questioned him, then drove back to Los Angeles without turning himself in, the prosecutor said. Figueroa was arrested 22 days later at his mother's home in Azusa.
"He did everything wrong in this case," Nikoletich told the judge.
The body of was found at 5:35 a.m. on south Interstate 805 near the Meade Avenue overpass.
The victim's godmother, Carrie Ibarra, said Marquez touched everyone with whom she came into contact.
"Teresa had a shining soul," her godmother said.
Ibarra said Figueroa posted a message on Facebook the week after the accident saying he "danced the night away" following the collision.
"You should be ashamed of yourself," Ibarra told the defendant.
Ibarra said the family may never know why her goddaughter -- who didn't have a car -- was walking on the freeway at 1:30 in the morning.
The victim's aunt, Linda Garcia, said she didn't understand Figueroa's actions that night.
"You are a murderer. You murdered our little girl," Garcia said. "You hit a person and you chose to leave."
Figueroa's attorney, Hector Tamayo, said Marquez may have been intoxicated.
"This is a tragedy," Tamayo said. "It was an accident. He (Figueroa) is aware of the hurt he has caused."
Figueroa told the family of the victim that he was "sorry and ashamed" of his conduct.
"It pains me to feel that this has happened," the defendant said. "I know for the rest of my life I'm going to think of the young lady."
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