The alleged impaired driver suspected of hitting and killing a young expectant mother who was on an evening walk with her husband in Anaheim has been charged with murder, prosecutors said.
Courtney Fritz Pandolfi, 40, of Garden Grove also faces a felony count of driving under the influence of drugs causing injury, and a misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Authorities said Pandolfi was behind the wheel of a white Jeep that struck 23-year-old Yesenia Aguilar on Katella Avenue near Bayless Street about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The victim was about eights months along in her pregnancy.
Pandolfi was charged with murder because she had prior convictions of driving under the influence of drugs in 2008, 2015 and 2016, a DA’s news release stated.
In California, drivers convicted of DUI are given what’s called the Watson advisement, which informs them that they can be charged with murder if they kill someone while driving under the influence, according to prosecutors.
The defendant’s bail was increased from $1 million to $3 million during her arraignment, which was continued. Deputy District Attorney Brian Orue, who is prosecuting the case, had sought $5 million bail, noting that this “could possibly be her fifth lifetime DUI.”
Pandolfi faces a possible maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted as charged.
“This was 100 percent preventable. This woman knew the consequences of driving under the influence and she did it anyway,” DA Todd Spitzer said in the release. “There is no reason why a 23-year-old mother is dead and her daughter will grow up without ever seeing her mother’s smile or hearing her voice.”
Aguilar was on a stroll with her husband, James Alvarez, when the SUV jumped a curb, crashed into newspaper stand and continued along the sidewalk and hit her, according to the DA’s office. Pandolfi allegedly didn’t stop driving until the Jeep became disabled.
The vehicle narrowly missed Alvarez, who was not injured in the incident, but is devastated over the loss of his wife.
“I was holding her hand. I was trying to pull her away towards me,” Alvarez tearfully told KTLA.
Aguilar was rushed to UC Irvine Medical Center where she later died.
Doctors performed a cesarean section and were able to save the baby, a girl named Adalyn Rose.
The newborn was listed in critical condition in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
However, Alvarez shared an encouraging update about his daughter with KTLA on Thursday afternoon, saying she’s doing better and is breathing on her own after having her respiratory tube removed.
“My baby is doing great,” he wrote in a message on Thursday. “She’s showing good signs of hope. I took a pic with her because I’m so proud of her.”
Doctors initially were concerned that the infant could have brain damage due to possible oxygen loss between the point her mother died and when she was delivered, according to Alvarez.
“I’m just praying that she is healthy. She’s the last thing I have from her,” he said Wednesday.
A GoFundMe account that Alvarez started to help pay for his wife’s funeral, as well as medical and other costs, has reached nearly $120,000 as of Thursday afternoon.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misstated the first name of the victim’s husband. It has been updated.