Rohnert Park mom sentenced in Petaluma River crash that killed her daughters
A Rohnert Park mom whose daughters drowned in 2016 when their car veered into the Petaluma River was sentenced to five years probation Tuesday under a plea agreement with prosecutors.
Alejandra Hernandez- Ruiz will be barred from driving and consuming drugs or alcohol under the sentence imposed by Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Bradford DeMeo. She must also enroll in an educational program.
The father of the two girls, Edwin Gonzalez, urged DeMeo to approve the plea agreement. Reading from a prepared statement, Gonzalez recounted his final moments with his daughters before the Aug. 31, 2016, crash.
Gonzalez told the judge that Hernandez-Ruiz, his girlfriend at the time, dropped him off at work in Petaluma, where he bid the girls goodbye and instructed them to behave at school. His life has not been the same since, Gonzalez said, as Hernandez-Ruiz stood sobbing just a few feet away. About eight family members watched from the gallery, some also wiping tears from their eyes.
“I’ve lost my purpose in life,” Gonzalez told the judge. “The person I was passed away with my daughters.”
Hernandez-Ruiz was driving the girls to school in Rohnert Park when her car drifted into the median on Petaluma Boulevard North just before 8 a.m. She overcorrected, causing her car to plow into an embankment near the Petaluma Village Premium Outlets and into the river, the CHP said.
Hernandez-Ruiz, then 27, was able to climb out of the car but left her daughters strapped into the car as it sank in about 6 feet of water. The girls, Delilah, 9, and Sayra Gonzalez, 7, were pulled out by divers minutes later when firefighters and police arrived.
The two girls were rushed to the hospital but died despite lifesaving efforts.
Authorities determined Hernandez-Ruiz’s license was suspended and though she passed a field sobriety test, a drug test taken hours later detected a small amount of methamphetamine in her system.
Hernandez-Ruiz was arrested in September 2017, about a year after the crash, and charged with felony gross vehicular manslaughter, child endangerment and driving on a suspended license.
She was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cervical cancer after the crash and was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment at the time of her arrest.
Last month, Hernandez- Ruiz entered a no contest plea for the two counts of gross vehicle manslaughter counts as part of a plea deal reached with prosecutors.
The gross negligence component of the charge indicates she acted with disregard or indifference to human life.
The plea agreement releases Hernandez-Ruiz from home confinement, where she has served nearly one year of incarceration. A group of supporters who accompanied Hernandez- Ruiz and Gonzalez hugged each other on their way out of the courthouse after the sentencing.
They declined to comment.