Despite her best efforts, the killer of a Gardena bike rider was unable to avoid justice after all.
Although her semi-successfult attempt to flee the scene may have spared her from a more severe penalty.
Twenty-three-year old Vanessa Marie Yanez was reportedly driving home when she collided with 60-year old postal worker Jesse Dotson as he was riding into work on Gardena’s El Segundo Blvd in June of last year. Yanez fled the scene, leaving Dotson bleeding in the street; he died in a local hospital a few days later.
The daughter of a veteran LAPD sergeant, Yanez reported the car stolen to the Huntington Park police the next day. However, an alert HPPD officer put two-and-two together after seeing news reports of the collision, and contacted Gardena police to report Yanez as a suspect.
Her car was found, complete with shattered windshield, still at the home she shared with her father, less than a mile from the scene of the collision. KNBC-4 later reported she told police she had been drinking before the wreck; if true, fleeing the scene would have given her time to sober up before her arrest.
She was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, perjury, filing a false police report and felony hit-and-run.
Gardena police initially said her father, Sgt. Arturo Yanez, could face charges if it was shown that he had knowledge of his daughter’s actions or was involved in the attempted cover-up. No such charges were ever filed, though, even though it’s hard to understand how such an experienced officer would be unaware of what was happening under his own roof.
There were also reports that he could face an internal investigation with the LAPD; however, such investigations are considered personnel matters, and the results are unlikely to ever be made public.
Today, the LA District Attorney’s office announced (pdf) that Vanessa Yanez had changed her plea to no contest on three counts — a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident, felony perjury, and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. She is expected to be sentenced to two years in state prison on September 25th.
The sentence seems light under the circumstances, suggesting she accepted a plea deal in exchange for a lighter sentence, as usually happens in traffic cases.
However, light sentences do little to stem the epidemic of hit-and-runs. And her sentence would have undoubtedly been much stiffer if it could have been shown that she was under the influence when she hit Dotson.
Which is just one more reason why the penalty for hit-and-run should be stiffened to match the penalties for drunk driving and remove the incentive for intoxicated drivers to flee the scene.
Correction: This story initially said Yanez had pled guilty; it has been amended to reflect her actual plea of no contest.