DENVER (CBS4) – The family of a valet who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver says they are frustrated by the limits of the sentence for the woman who was behind the wheel.
Norma Vera-Nolasco pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in the death of Jose Medina and will be sentenced on Monday afternoon. She faces as much as 12 years in prison as part of the plea deal and will likely be deported.
Police caught Vera-Nolasco while she was on a plane in Phoenix and trying to leave the country after the January incident. Medina, 21, was on his third day on the job when he was struck and killed outside the Rockstar Lounge on Lincoln between 8th and 9th.
Vera-Nolasco was allegedly drunk at the time and was in the country illegally. She also had a history of hit-and-run incidents.
Three other people have already pleaded guilty to helping cover up the crime and helping Vera-Nolasco escape.
Linda Limon, Medina’s mom, traveled to Denver for the sentencing. She told CBS4 she’ll be calling on political leaders to change the laws to allow for harsher punishments in such cases.
“That wasn’t justice done for Jose,” she said. “They need to change the laws. I’m not just speaking for my baby, I’m speaking for all the innocent people that get killed.”
Limon says she’s still deeply upset by the facts of the case.
“(Vera-Nolasco) escaped; she tried to leave. She didn’t even stop to help my baby.
They could have at least stopped and maybe he’d be here today with me.”
hannon Burtness and Medina were planning to get married a few weeks before the crime. She told CBS4 she thinks confronting the woman who killed her fiancee will be the toughest moment of her life.
“(Vera-Nolasco) doesn’t understand what she took from me. And his family, friends. She took a lot from his neices and nephews who love him so much.”
Burtness says Medina’s was working an extra job that night and that he had visions of a bigger life.
“We were going to get married. He was working. And it just has crushed everything,” she said.
Burtness says she met Medina when she was 13. She now carries his ashes in an urn she wears on her body every day.
“It’s him. It’s what I have of him now,” she said.
A makeshift memorial is in place at the spot where Medina died. His family members say they will visit it to pay final respects after the sentencing hearing.
CBS4 GOOD QUESTION REPORT
CBS4’s Alan Gionet recently set out to seek the answer to the question “Why Do They Run?” in reference to the numerous hit-and-run cases in the Denver area. Watch his complete report below where he explores why the penalties in Colorado aren’t greater for such drivers who cause bodily harm.