During the sentencing hearing of a California woman who pleaded guilty to driving impaired and fatally striking a pregnant woman, the victim’s husband delivered an emotional impact statement while holding their “miracle” child.

The victim, 23-year-old Yesenia Lisette Aguilar, was 35 weeks pregnant when she went out for a walk with her husband, James Alvarez, on the evening of August 11, 2020, in Anaheim, California. The couple was holding hands as they strolled along the sidewalk on Katella Avenue when a Jeep jumped the curb and struck Aguilar, narrowly missing Alvarez, according to a statement from Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer.

Aguilar died from her injuries, but doctors performed an emergency C-section to save her unborn baby’s life. The little girl, now 3 years old, was in court with her father on April 12 for the sentencing of the Jeep’s driver, Courtney Fritz Pandolfi, 44, of Garden Grove, the DA’s office said.

At Pandolfi’s sentencing on Friday, Alvarez held his daughter as he delivered an emotional victim impact statement, according to local station KTTV. The widower called on Pandolfi to seek forgiveness and get the addiction help that she needs but also said he hoped she would be reminded daily of the sorrow her actions have caused, the station reported.

“I want you to see her face every single day,” Alvarez said. “I want you to share the pain that I have.”

As he held his young daughter, Alvarez addressed Pandolfi directly, saying: “I want you to see the face of my wife in her. This is who you ruin her life. She won’t know her Mommy.”

Alvarez said the little girl will never have the chance to know her mother beyond pictures and memories.

“The biggest loss is my daughter, and I want you to see who you took,” he said, telling Pandolfi that she took away Aguilar’s opportunity to be a mother.

“The hardest thing I had to endure is trying to raise a daughter and try to fill that void you left,” Alvarez said.

Newsweek reached out via GoFundMe on Sunday to Alvarez for comment.

Pandolfi, who had three prior DUI convictions, was driving under the influence of “numerous drugs” when the fatal crash occurred, prosecutors said. At Friday’s hearing, she was sentenced to 15 years to life after previously pleading guilty to multiple charges, including second-degree murder and a felony count of driving under the influence of a drug causing injury, along with misdemeanor counts of driving on a suspended or revoked license due to a DUI, driving under the influence of a drug and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Prosecutors described the fatal collision in the statement, saying that after Pandolfi’s vehicle jumped the curb and went onto the sidewalk, she then crashed into a metal newspaper stand and continued driving down the sidewalk before hitting Aguilar. Pandolfi continued to drive on the sidewalk “until the Jeep was disabled, traveling a total of 347 ft without ever braking or taking evasive action,” according to the district attorney’s office.

“Yesenia’s last act on this earth was to do whatever she could to protect her unborn baby,” Spitzer said. “A beautiful little girl came into the world fighting like hell to survive the tragedy that took her own mother’s life, and the strength that little girl has shown gave her own father the will to live. Words of remorse mean little from someone who knew the dangers of getting high and driving and did it anyway.”

The district attorney said the 3-year-old’s “first breath will be forever inextricably intertwined with her mother’s last breath, but that little girl will grow up knowing that her mother’s last act on earth was to do whatever she could to protect her unborn baby. Driving under the influence has consequences and Yesenia, James, and little Adalyn Rose are proof that those consequences are not just numbers, they are lives that deserved to be lived together not birthdays spent mourning the loss of a loving mother.”

Woman Sentenced for DUI
Courtney Fritz Pandolfi, 44, was sentenced to15 years to life in prison on April 12, 2024.

Anaheim Police Department

Newsweek also contacted Pandolfi’s defense attorney Fred Fascenelli for comment on her behalf.

Pandolfi expressed regret in a statement during Friday’s hearing, according to local station KNBC’s coverage of the sentencing.

“I just want to say how very sorry I am to you guys, your family,” Pandolfi said. “There is not a day that goes by where I do not think about what I did and how I could have prevented the horrible tragedy that occurred. I affected so many lives that day, and because of my complete selfishness, I know I changed the path of your guys’ lives.”

Pandolfi was high on a “drug cocktail including cocaine and methamphetamine” when she hit and killed Aguilar in August 2020. She was also intoxicated on a combination of narcotics that included methamphetamine and morphine when she was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs in Costa Mesa in November 2019. Pandolfi was previously convicted of driving under the influence of drugs in 2008, 2015 and 2016. For those three instances, she received a Watson advisement, which warns DUI offenders in California that if they get into a deadly collision, they face the upgraded charge of murder, according to the district attorney’s office.