Senta Florez broke down into tears after learning the hit-and-run driver who killed her teenage daughter will not step foot in a prison for the crime.
“A complete slap in the face to my family to our friends, to Zia, to all the other victims of hit-and-run drivers,” Florez said.
31-year-old Heather Brents struck and killed 16-year-old Zia Hoyos on Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs back in May 2012. Then, Brents’ father, 70-year-old Russell Stienecker, covered up the crime by hiding the suspect vehicle, a Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck.
The two were arrested nearly a year after the crash, after a friend of Brents tipped off police officers.
Now they’ve both pleaded guilty: Brents to one count of felony hit and run, and Stienecker to one count of misdemeanor accessory.
Brents received a suspended sentence: 90 days custody on monitored home detention,100 hours of community service and three years formal probation. Stienecker received two years probation.
“I’m in disbelief right now, I can’t believe this happened,” Florez said. “I don’t know what to do.”
Florez left Larson Justice Center so stunned and distraught, she couldn’t even drive home. She stopped at a bench just blocks from the courthouse for hours to grieve.
She says she’s lost hope in our justice system.
“I can’t move forward,” Florez said.
We attempted to go to Brents’ home in Desert Hot Springs to hear her side of the story. But after knocking on the door, someone peered out the window, locked the door and it remained shut.
“Disgust, no remorse, no sympathy, just selfishness,” Florez said of Brents.
Florez launched a petition earlier this year on change.org, calling on local and state leaders to create stiffer penalties for hit-and-run drivers. She asks them to increase the sentencing length, the statute of limitations, and bail amount for hit-and-run drivers, alcohol-related or not. She hopes to call it “Zia’s Law.”
For information on the petition click here: https://www.facebook.com/ziaslaw