STOCKTON, CA - A Mexican national who was driving without a valid California license will be arraigned on vehicular manslaughter charges Wednesday afternoon in a crash that killed a Stockton elementary school student.
Abelina Sarmiento, 24, will be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. in Superior Court in Stockton.
Sarmiento was driving westbound on Main Street in front of Wilhelmina Henry Elementary School on Oct. 20, 2011, when she ran a red light and slammed into 9-year-old Julianna Radilla as she was in a crosswalk on a mini-scooter.
The scooter's gas tank caught fire on impact and flames covered Radilla as she was carried under the front of the blue minivan for more than a block.
She died from her injuries the next day at U.C. Davis Medical Center.
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Investigators worked painstakingly for nine months before issuing a warrant for Sarmiento's arrest on July 12. She turned herself in to authorities on Friday, and was released on her own recognizance.
"It was hard for the wait, but I know they're doing their job and they're getting justice for Julie," said Radilla's grandmother Carol Shipp, who was there when Radilla was hit.
At the time of the accident, California Highway Patrol officers acknowledged Sarmiento was driving into the sunset and may have had difficulty seeing whether the streetlight in front of the school was red.
It's not yet clear what new evidence led Stockton police investigators to ask that charges be filed in the case.
There were a number of witnesses to the accident.
Radilla's family said they have been devastated.
"It's been hard," Shipp said. "We went through all the holidays without Julie. And that girl's been out and she got to go through all the holidays with her family. Sometimes I wonder, has she got kids? I mean, how does she make it through the day?"
Shipp is also upset that no new safety measures have been put in place at the intersection.
"They built this school on a main road. They've got no signs, they've got no crossing guards, no cross walks, no cross lights," Shipp said, adding her voice to those of many other parents who said they've worried about just such an accident at the intersection for years.
The intersection sits just beyond a curve where a country road with a speed limit of 55 mph suddenly slows to 25 miles as vehicles approach the traffic light in front of the school.