‘Good, decent man’ gets no jail time in young pedestrian’s death

January 16, 2019 GMT

STAMFORD — A Stamford judge on Tuesday declined to send a man to jail who was convicted of striking and killing Karina Tinajero-Arreguin as she illegally crossed Strawberry Hill Avenue on her way to take a college entrance exam in November 2016.

The tragic accident, which prompted the placement of a crosswalk and high visibility lights across the road at Stamford High School, led to the negligent homicide with a motor vehicle conviction last year of the driver of the van that struck the teenager, Wilson Villa-Cabrera.

At his sentencing on Tuesday morning in a near empty fourth-floor courtroom, the state’s prosecutor on the case Mitchell Ruben said jail would be an appropriate punishment for Villa-Cabrera, 40, of Stamford, who owns a painting company.

Rubin said that police testimony in the September trial showed that Villa-Cabrera had over nine seconds to see Tinajero-Arreguin, 18, standing on the double yellow lines while she was crossing the busy four-lane road on the November morning when she was killed.

Despite having a width of 22 feet to steer his van through two lanes without striking Tinajero-Arreguin on his way to pick up his workers for a painting job that morning, Villa Cabrera’s van struck the teenager, flinging her 60 feet down the road causing cuts and bruises to the left side of her head and torso.

“The state feels justice requires jail in this case. The state also feels that the community has to know this type of conduct is unacceptable,” said Rubin, who explained to Judge Richard Comerford that Villa-Cabrera should be sent to jail for 90 days.

But Villa-Cabrera’s attorney Rob Serafinowicz said that his client has no prior criminal record and is a good man.

Serafinowicz said his client was a very hard working man who spends his money by sending it back to his childhood church in his native Ecuador. “He is a hard working man, who takes care of his children and that speaks volumes about his character. He is a good man,” Serafinowicz said, adding that if the crosswalk had been installed by November 2016 there was a very good chance Tinajero-Arreguin would never have been killed.

Serafinowicz said Villa Cabrera has expressed a great deal of remorse about killing Tinajero-Arreguin and has a daughter that is the same age.

“I don’t believe in this case a period of incarceration would serve anybody. It would not serve Mr. Villa, it would not serve the public and it would not serve to undo a very, very unfortunate accident,” Serafinowicz said. “At the end ofthe day what we have here is an accident involving a hard-working man who has no prior criminal record who takes care of his family.”

Comerford, who spent several minutes saying that he did not understand why there has to be so much suffering in the world, seemed to agree.

Comerford said he had no doubts that Villa-Cabrera will be living with the knowledge that he killed Tinajero-Arreguin for the rest of his life.

At trial Comerford said he saw, “A hard working decent man trying to do the right thing when this happened. And there is this beautiful young girl trying to better herself in the world by by going to take her examinations. Two very good people here and unfortunately her life was taken in a tragic accident. I cannot explain why. Someday maybe we will all understand.”

But Comerford said he could not send Villa-Cabrera to jail.

“I really don’t understand how incarcerating this man will bring back that beautiful young girl. Part of that man’s soul has been lost. His daughter is gone,” Comerford said as he pointed to Karina’s father and brother sitting in a front row pew. “It will never come back. But the people will not be served by putting a man, a good decent man, who was involved in a tragic accident in jail. He wasn’t drinking and he wasn’t driving like a crazy person.”

Serafinowicz said he was pleased by Comerford’s decision. ““We are very happy, especially for his children that he won’t have to suffer any incarceration. This was a horrible accident, but I think he is a very good person,” he said.

But Strawberry Hill Neighborhood Association president Dave Avery, who watched the sentencing, said he was disappointed that Villa-Cabrera wasn’t jailed, or at least had his license taken away.

“There seems to be nothing here,” Avery said. “To have the defendant get off with no jail time, no fine, no suspension of license, it is a little surprising that you can kill someone on the road like that and not be held responsible.”