Sonoma Valley girl, 7, succumbs to injuries two days after crash that killed her mom

Three days after the death of her mother, a Sonoma Valley second-grader has succumbed to the injuries she suffered on her way to school Tuesday morning when a suspected drunken driver slammed his pickup head-on into their car.

Family members said they plan to remove Kaliyah Adkins, 7, from life support today at Children’s Hospital Oakland, where she has been in care since Tuesday.

Her mother, Estefania Soto, 27, died at the site of the crash on Highway 12 in Agua Caliente.

The driver of the pickup, Jose Manuel Lopez-Perez, 25, of Santa Rosa, was charged with two counts of murder Friday when he was arraigned by Sonoma County prosecutors in his bed at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

Lopez-Perez was driving with a blood alcohol level of more than the legal limit of 0.08 percent, Chief Deputy District Attorney’s Office Brian Staebell said. Lopez-Perez was also convicted of a DUI in 2013, Staebell said.

Soto was driving Adkins to Sassarini Elementary School at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday when Lopez-Perez crossed the double-yellow line on Highway 12 and collided with her Nissan Sentra, according to the CHP. Soto and Adkins were coming from their Boyes Hot Springs home.

Bystanders quickly stopped, pulled an unconscious Adkins from her pink car seat and began performing CPR until first responders took over.

Others pulled Lopez-Perez from his burning truck. Both Adkins and Lopez-Perez were taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with life-threatening injuries, but the 7-year-old was quickly flown to Children’s Hospital Oakland.

Sonoma Valley Fire Chief Steve Akre called the quick action by witnesses “heroic” by giving Adkins a chance at survival, but she did not regain consciousness after the accident.

Sassarini Elementary School Principal Andrew Ryan sent a letter to parents Friday morning informing them that Adkins had died. Therapy dogs and support personnel from Social Advocates for Youth were at the school Friday to help staff and students “work through their grief,” Ryan said by email.

A Napa CHP official also confirmed the girl’s death on Friday.

The mother and daughter have roots in Sonoma Valley, Ryan said earlier this week. Soto was Ryan’s student when he was a physical education teacher at Altamira Middle School, he said.

Soto was a hairstylist at both Beauty N Peace Salon and Crush Beauty Bar in Sonoma. She had worked at Crush Beauty Bar since the salon opened nearly two years ago, said Casey Chavez, salon manager and friend.

Soto is survived by her parents Chuy and Elvia Soto, and her brothers Benny and Aaron Soto, according to a memorial website. Adkins is survived by her father Ramon Adkins, who lives in Vallejo.

The families are raising money for memorial and funeral expenses on two separate fundraising websites. Estefania Soto’s family created a memorial page. Ramon Adkins’ family set up a GoFundMe page for Kaliyah Adkins. Both families are working together on arrangements but are raising funds separately, family friend Sierra Sweeden said.

A public memorial is scheduled for Adkins and Soto from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at Duggan’s Mission Chapel, 525 West Napa St., Sonoma, Sweeden said.

“(Soto) was one of the most vibrant and loving people I’ve ever known,” said Sweeden, who grew up in Sonoma with Soto. “If she was your friend, she would go to the end of the world for you.”

Over at Crush Beauty Bar, a makeshift memorial was assembled for Soto and her daughter as clients and friends bought flowers, photos and candles to remember the two who were practically inseparable.

One sign read: “Queen & Her Princess - ?Together Forever.”

The girl would come over to the beauty salon after finishing school, which was located just across the street, Chavez said. Adkins would show off new dances and cheers she learned to workers and clients at the salon, where her mom did blow-dry styling and nails.

“She just was so full of life with a big, beautiful personality just like her mom,” Chavez said. “She was really her mother’s daughter.”

The only solace that Chavez could take away from the tragedy was that the two would be together in the afterlife.

“The only thing we have to think about is that they’re together and they’re happy. I’m sure they are signing and they are dancing,” she said.

The mother and daughter also were a vibrant presence at Peace N Beauty Salon, where Soto did haircuts as well as coloring.

“Kaliyah was just like her mom in lighting up the room. She was giggly, bubbly; she always wanted to hug you,” said owner Jerica Tecero. “She made her presence known.”

You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or

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