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Unlicensed driver pleads guilty in fatal Santa Rosa crosswalk hit-and-run crash

A Santa Rosa man pleaded guilty Thursday to a crosswalk hit-and-run crash that killed a 4-year-old boy and rekindled the debate about unlicensed drivers.

Marcos Lopez Garcia, 24, admitted guilt for the three charges against him in the Aug. 18 death of Christopher "Buddy" Rowe near Santa Rosa's Jacobs Park.

Garcia, whose trial was scheduled to begin today, now faces a maximum 5-1/2 years in prison at his June 29 sentencing.

Boy Hit In Santa Rosa Crosswalk

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The boy's mother, Michelle Rowe, who was walking Buddy and his two sisters across West Ninth Street at the time of the crash, wiped her eyes with a tissue Thursday as Garcia admitted the charges.

After she left the courtroom with her husband, Jim Rowe, she expressed relief that Garcia took responsibility for his crimes.

But she was critical of the drawn-out negotiations in which the defense tried to bargain for reduced sentences — first offering 16 months, then two years, and finally, three years.

Rowe and her husband said no to all of the offers, preferring instead to take the case to trial.

"We will have to live with this … for the rest of our lives," Michelle Rowe said. "You never get over this."

Garcia's lawyer, Walter Rubenstein, said Garcia felt remorse for what happened and wanted to avoid a trial to limit the family's suffering.

He will be deported after serving any prison time, his lawyer said.


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