Friday, September 17, 2004

Driver who killed woman
sentenced to three years

By Sharon Coolidge
Enquirer staff writer

Saying a victim came to America for a better life only to have it ended by a careless driver, a judge told the driver he would never legally get behind the wheel again and he would spend the next three years in prison.

Judge Steve Martin imposed the sentence on Zachery Costa Thursday.

The 18-year-old Green Township man pleaded guilty Sept. 2 to aggravated vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident.

Gloria Valles, 30, of Westwood, who had come from El Salvador, died in the July 19 accident on Glenway Avenue.

"The woman comes to the United States looking for a better life for herself and she probably has had more trouble in her life than you have ever had in yours," Martin said. "She's looking for a chance and you kill her instantly. There is no justification for it."

In addition to the sentence, Martin ordered that Costa's tricked-out Honda be seized and destroyed.

Family members of the victim did not come to court, possibly because they returned to El Salvador, court officials said.

"I had no intention of physical violence on anybody," Costa said.

When Costa hit Valles, he was driving 15 miles over Glenway's posted speed limit of 35 mph and sped through a red light on his way to meet his girlfriend at a restaurant.

Costa's license had been suspended, but he was allowed to drive to and from work. He said he was leaving work and didn't know he wasn't allowed to stop for dinner under the terms of the to-and-from-work-only suspension. Valles was in a crosswalk.

Her boyfriend, Antonio Cruz, had just crossed before her and watched as Costa's car struck her.

Costa drove away from the scene, but was chased by witnesses and held for police.

He told Martin he was young and fled because he panicked.

"I had no intention of leaving the state or anything like that, I just wanted to get away from the actual crime scene," Costa said.

Martin read Costa's prior offenses: three speeding tickets, reckless operation, and juvenile convictions on charges of drug trafficking and robbery.

"I wish that I could have every juvenile here that has a history of bad decisions and bad driving because your decision didn't just pop up," Martin said. "I know you didn't try to kill her, or else they would have charged you with murder."

But, the judge added, "She's still dead."


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