s
s
Sections
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

A Rohnert Park mother whose daughters were killed in 2016 when her car careened off the road and plunged into the Petaluma River has pleaded no contest to two counts of felony gross vehicular manslaughter, Sonoma County District Attorney officials said.

Alejandra Hernandez-Ruiz, 27, entered the plea June 14 in a tentative agreement with prosecutors. If approved by a judge, it would allow her to be released from home confinement, having already served nearly one year of incarceration in her home for the Aug. 31, 2016, crash, according to Deputy District Attorney Laura Passaglia.

A Sonoma County Superior Court judge will review the terms of the agreement Aug. 7 and issue a sentence.

“She’s accepting responsibility that this wouldn’t have happened if she’d been more careful, if she’d done something differently,” said her attorney, Izaak Schwaiger. “Nothing will make her feel worse than when she crawled out of the car without her children.”

If the judge accepts the agreement, Hernandez Ruiz will be given credit for the year she’s spent confined to her home with an ankle bracelet, and given a probation term of five years. She will be prohibited from driving during that term, Passaglia said.

The tentative settlement agreement brings closer to closure the ordeal that began for Hernandez-Ruiz and her family during what should have been a routine morning commute but resulted in a crash that killed her daughters, Sayra, 7, and Delilah Gonzalez, 9.

Hernandez-Ruiz had just dropped her father off at his job in Petaluma and was headed up Petaluma Boulevard North toward her daughter’s Rohnert Park school when the CHP said she drifted into the median about 8 a.m.

Hernandez-Ruiz then overcorrected and crashed down an embankment through heavy brush, sliding into a narrow stretch of the river near the Petaluma Village Premium Outlets. The upside-down vehicle quickly sank and became submerged in about 6 feet of water.

Hernandez-Ruiz got out, but her daughters did not.

Police and firefighters dove into the water within minutes of the crash and cut the girls free of their seat belts. They were rushed to the hospital but died, despite life saving efforts.

At the time of the crash, Hernandez-Ruiz had a small amount of methamphetamine in her system, and her driver’s license was suspended, officials said.

Hernandez-Ruiz passed a field sobriety test, and officials didn’t suspect she was impaired. But a drug test taken about two hours later detected a small amount of methamphetamine in her system, prosecutors said.

The amount — 360 nanograms per milliliter of blood about two hours after the crash — didn’t necessarily indicate she was intoxicated, but it was a greater amount than would be appropriate had she been using the substance for therapeutic purposes, according to Passaglia.

One year passed before authorities arrested Hernandez-Ruiz.

In September 2017, she was charged with gross vehicular manslaughter, child endangerment and driving on a suspended license. Hernandez-Ruiz faced up to 11 years in prison if convicted.

By that time, Hernandez-Ruiz was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment for an aggressive form of cervical cancer, which was diagnosed after the crash. Schwaiger said the treatment appears to have worked, and he’s been told she’s doing well in recovery.

New hours and customer tips

New Saturday hours begin at the Santa Rosa Department of Motor Vehicles on Aug. 4

Currently, the office is open the first and third Saturday of each month from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Don’t wait for a renewal notice. Expiration dates are printed on each driver’s license, and appointments can be made 90 days ahead.

Look for appointments at nearby DMV offices like Petaluma, Napa, Novato and Ukiah, and keep checking back for cancellations.

Consult the DMV checklist before arrival to ensure you bring proper documentation.

Check the DMV website to make sure your transaction can’t be completed online, like vehicle registration renewal.

Information about the REAL ID is available at dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/realid

Show Comment