ESCONDIDO — A San Diego Superior Court judge on June 7 sentenced a 55-year-old woman to one year in jail and probation relating to a 2007 fatal hit-and-run accident that killed a teenager as she crossed an Escondido street.
Moments before handing down the sentence, Judge Daniel Goldstein said the case was “extraordinary difficult” in part because the defendant, Tiffany St. Ives, was only charged with hit-and-run, and not with causing the death of the teenager.
Marlene Resendiz, 17, was killed around 5 p.m. Nov. 24, 2007, after being struck while crossing East Grand Avenue near Fairdale Avenue; she had been carried approximately 400 feet on the hood of St. Ives’ black Nissan Maxima. A police investigation was inconclusive about who was at fault in the accident.
Resendiz, who was just several weeks away from her wedding day, died at the scene.
Following the accident, St. Ives went to great lengths to cover up the crime, which she did successfully for two and a half years. Prosecutors said she had an employee change the color of her car to gold, wash it down with bleach and purchase parts through a junkyard as opposed to a dealer. St. Ives was arrested in February after the employee reported her to authorities.
Goldstein told the victim’s family who were in attendance at the sentencing that he was “sorry for their loss,” but he had to give a sentence that reflected the charge in this case, which was felony hit-and-run. Unlike other fatal vehicle accidents, there was no malice or negligence on St. Ives’ part, the judge said.
St. Ives, of Valley Center, pleaded guilty May 7 to one count of felony hit-and-run. She has owned The Purple Cow & Friends, an animal rescue farm, for 20 years. Because of credits for time already served, the defendant will likely be released from jail in less than six months. St. Ives will then be place on probation for three years.
The defendant, who suffers from several physical ailments exacerbated by her jail confinement, appeared frail as she addressed the court. “This hurts me very deeply,” wailed St. Ives as she looked directly at the victim’s family and friends some of whom began sobbing.
Resendiz’s mother, Teresa Cuevas, told the judge that the loss of her daughter has devastated her. “I’m full of pain now, I’m smothered by this,” she said through a court interpreter. Cuevas said she spent many nights crying during the last two and a half years, praying for justice in her daughter’s case.
Outside the courtroom, Resendiz’s older sister, 24-year-old Sylvia Alvarez, said, “She can say she’s sorry, but sorry won’t bring my sister back.”
In April, Resendiz’s family filed a $75 million lawsuit against St. Ives and her animal sanctuary.