Man convicted in drag racing deaths takes stand, apologizes - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Man convicted in drag racing deaths takes stand, apologizes

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MIAMI (WSVN) -- A South Florida man convicted in the deaths of three friends in a 2011 drag racing accident took the stand at his sentencing hearing Thursday but not before listening to emotional testimony from the victims' loved ones.

Twenty-two-year-old Alberto de Jesús Coterón Oliva faces up to 75 years in prison after he was found guilty of three counts of vehicular homicide and one count of leaving the scene of a fatal accident, Friday.

According to investigators, on Aug. 20, 2011, Coterón Oliva was driving at a high rate of speed when he attempted to outrun a black Infiniti traveling east on Northwest 12th Street in Doral. Police said he lost control of his Honda Civic on the 9800 block and crashed into a concrete utility post, splitting his vehicle in two. Two of his passengers were ejected from the car and one was trapped inside upon impact.

Two of Coterón Oliva's friends, 17-year-old Daniel Cardenas and 17-year-old Veronica Santiago, died at the scene. The crash also claimed the life of his girlfriend, 15-year-old Isis Jimenez. "Only God knows why he left me alive," said Coterón Oliva through a translator when he took the stand.

Police said Coterón Oliva, then 19 years old, fled from the scene of the crash on foot. Less than two days later, his family escorted him to Miami-Dade Police headquarters, where he surrendered. "If I could, I would give my own life for those three lives, but me being in jail is not going to bring back those lives," said Coterón Oliva. "The only thing that this is going to do is to separate one more family. I feel very sorry for their families, and I apologize to them."

Speaking out about her daughter, Santiago's mother said the accident irrevocably altered her life. "Today, just like August 20, I feel a very deep pain, and a pain that will never heal because my soul is with my princess," she said, adding that Coterón Oliva "destroyed my life and the lives of others" and "robbed me of the opportunity to live."

Also present at the sentencing hearing was Santiago's sister, who said she brought joy to the lives of everyone she met. "She was a happy child, a child full of life and dreams, and today she's just one star in the sky," she said.

Santiago's sister also indicated neither Coterón Oliva nor his family reached out to her after the accident. "God forgive me, but I don't feel sadness for him for his irresponsibility," she said through a Spanish translator. "He took a piece of my life. [Neither] he nor his family presented any words of sadness or regret."

Cardenas' mother also addressed the judge. "He had his entire future in front of him, and it was broken apart," she said in Spanish.

An attorney read a statement from Jimenez's mother in which she asked the judge to show Coterón Oliva no mercy. The statement reads in part, "If it was up to me, let him receive 75 years in prison, because he ruined three young lives. He was dating my daughter for 2 years ... not once has his mom contacted me. He left them on the street like dogs."

During her testimony, Santiago's sister said she demanded justice for the victims. "I have a very deep pain," she said.

According to reports, Coterón Oliva did not have a criminal record at the time of the crash, but he had been fined 16 times for traffic violations.

A decision on Coterón Oliva's sentencing will be made Monday afternoon.

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