Eight years in prison were handed down July 26 to a Chula Vista mother who pleaded guilty to two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in the drowning deaths of her 5-year-old daughter and a playmate after her car plunged into the Otay Reservoir.
“I take full responsibility for the death of my daughter and of Guiliana,” said Arlene Hernandez, 22, referring to her daughter Lesette Hernandez Silva and her friend Guiliana Figueroa, who were both 5 years old.
Natasha Lee, Guiliana’s mother, told Chula Vista Superior Court Judge Theodore Weathers she was devastated by the loss of her only child. Lee tearfully said it was difficult to choose a tiny casket and clothes for the funeral.
“I closed her eyes the rest of the way,” said Lee tearfully, saying she couldn’t help but ask her daughter to “please wake up, Mommy’s here.”
Lee said she dressed her daughter, painted her nails and “trimmed her bangs for the very last time.” She added she often hoped it was all a nightmare and she would wake up with her daughter alive.
Lee said authorities asked her to identify her daughter’s body, and she encountered Hernandez’s daughter first before discovering her daughter. “Aug. 5, 2012. That night will forever be embedded in my mind,” said Lee.
“I am tormented by the loss of my daughter. My daughter died and drowned because of Arlene’s negligence … in all that dirty lake water,” said Lee, who wore a black dress.
When Hernandez pleaded guilty, she was told she would receive a prison term ranging from six to 12 years.
Deputy District Attorney Mary Loeb asked for 12 years while defense attorney Jonathan Jordan suggested eight years.
“I’m so sorry for the pain I’ve caused you,” said Hernandez to the other girl’s mother. “I am so sorry for all the pain I’ve caused everybody.”
Hernandez lost control of her Kia Sorento around 6:15 p.m. on Otay Lakes Road and went down an embankment and overturned in the reservoir. The father of the other girl, Eric Figueroa, was in the front seat, and both managed to get out of the submerged car, but the two girls were strapped inside the vehicle.
A passing Border Patrol agent was able to get both girls out and they were rushed to a hospital, but both died in the emergency room. Hernandez’s blood/alcohol level was .13, which is over the legal limit of .08. Weathers gave Hernandez credit for 355 days already spent in jail and fined her $2,864.