This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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On the evening of November 6, 2016, Hailey King and her friend, David Gutierrez, were cruising down the street on a scooter. Suddenly, out of nowhere, disaster struck. A man in a red pickup smashed into them from the rear. He was going 71 miles an hour in a 35. Hailey was violently slammed against the hood of the vehicle, while David and the scooter were trapped beneath. They were one block from her home.
He never slowed down. Hailey was carried over 220 feet before she slid off the hood and hit the ground. David was dragged for a mile, losing his legs in the process. It was a while before he was dislodged from beneath the truck.
For Kathy Hall, Hailey’s mother, what happened next was sickening. The man hid his truck, which was sparking due to the scooter, and walked past the accident scene. He passed Hailey and David without even calling for an ambulance. The man left the scene of an accident as bystanders screamed for help.
It is not difficult at all to figure out why he left the scene before authorities got there. Sergio Rodriguez-Larios was an illegal alien. So he hid his truck and took a stroll right past the destruction his actions caused. He watched as bystanders screamed for help and stopped traffic. He watched a doctor, who happened to be in the line of cars, desperately trying to keep Hailey alive.
Rodriguez-Larios was able to afford $57,000 for a stellar defense.
Kathy recalls that David was not found until about 7 minutes after Hailey was. Both were transported to the hospital in grave condition. At about 12:15 p.m., Kathy heard a knock on her door. When she opened it, the Police were standing there. They told her they had to ask her some questions in order to identify her daughter.
After what seemed like the longest ten minutes of her life identifying scars and marks, Kathy remembered the tattoo over Hailey’s heart. She had gotten a tattoo of her baby’s name after she was born. It was the one thing the Police (who had not told Kathy anything other than that they needed to identify Hailey) were looking for.
You Need to Come to the Hospital
Both Hailey and David were in ICU, and the Police told Kathy she needed to get there. When they arrived they found that David was in surgery, but Hailey had head injuries so severe, she would never have survived. They were complicated by internal bleeding doctors could not stop. Doctors told Kathy they had already resuscitated Hailey three times. It was only a matter of time before her heart stopped again.
As machines issued frantic alarms all around her, Kathy Hall was faced with the hardest decision she had ever made. She asked if there was even a one percent chance for Hailey. All the doctor could say was, “I’m sorry.” Hailey died an hour and 45 minutes after her mother arrived at the hospital. She never closed her eyes or blinked.
Kathy remembers asking if there was anything left to donate. Hailey’s organs were so damaged, they were useless to doctors. There was nothing left. It is at this point Kathy’s memory goes blank. The next thing she remembers is waking up in the emergency room.
Police had the truck, having followed the debris and blood trail, and believed they could identify the man behind the wheel. They had the vehicle, they just didn’t have the driver. For the next two days, the press had chyrons running across the screen and posted pictures of the man, asking for the public’s help.
The intense media coverage payed off two days later. Kathy received a phone call then in which detectives told her they had found Rodriguez-Larios. They wanted to let her know before the press got hold of it, they told her. Kathy felt relief that they had caught her daughter’s killer.
Catch and Release
An hour and 45 minutes later, she gets another phone call. Unbelievably, they had just released Rodriguez-Larios. The only thing he was charged with was leaving the scene of an accident. In a horrifying twist, it was revealed the man only lived a mile from her house.
Kathy recalls her husband hid her keys from her, and would not allow her to go to Rodriguez-Larios’ house to confront him. She remembers well the anger that coursed through her on learning he was so close. It was extremely difficult to deal with the fact that this man had just killed her daughter, and quite possibly David, and they let him back on her streets.
But her troubles weren’t over yet. Kathy spent the next seventeen months contacting the press, going to her state legislators. Her intent was to ensure her daughter’s killer was charged with more than just leaving the scene. In December of 2017, over a year later, they were finally able to charge him with second degree murder.
David survived his ecounter with Rodriguez-Larios and was now a double amputee. Authorities would level a charge of first degree battery against Rodriguez-Larios in David’s case. But in January 2018, just before trial, a new prosecutor came onboard the case due to the original prosecutors retirement. Kathy was informed that they would be lowering charges against her daughter’s killer.
Rodriguez-Larios’ charges were dropped from first degree battery and second degree murder, to second degree battery and manslaughter. Kathy was informed that they would not be having a trial. Originally he was facing 58 years, but the new prosecutor brought it down with a plea deal to 17.
Kathy remembers Rodriguez-Larios needing interpreters at his hearings, and asking if he was a US citizen. Her concern was that he would flee the country in order to avoid charges. They were told “We’re not sure,” and “We don’t know.” Finally a detective told her that yes, he was illegal.
Aftaid he would escape justice, Kathy kept pleading with authorities to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They were told in a meeting that if authorities were to contact ICE, Rodriguez-Larios would be taken to Louisiana. They explained to her that he would probably just be deported and never have to face judicial hearings.
Kathy and her husband decided not to call in ICE, because they wanted their daughter’s killer to stand trial and to pay for what he had done. They thought that 17 years still sounded good, but were told the reality is he will probably do just over two before he is paroled. They were not happy about it, but they felt they had no choice.
On top of that, Kathy says, her daughter’s killer had hired one of the top attorneys in Arkansas with a $20,000 retainer fee, and was able to post a bond of $25,000. Additionally, he was able to hire “expert witnesses.” He paid them $12,000. Somehow, Rodriguez-Larios was able to afford $57,000 for a stellar defense.
Knowing that, and because her husband is a disabled veteran, Kathy asked for restitution to be put in this plea deal to pay Hailey’s medical bills. They totalled $48,000. She was told no. She could not ask for restitution. Any fines leveled would be used to reimburse the court for their efforts.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Rodriguez-Larios eventually had fines leveled against him. They totaled $280. Kathy recalls that neither her family nor David agreed to a plea deal to begin with. They were not given the option. The deal was between the District Attorney (DA) and Rodriguez-Larios’ lawyers.
Though the prosecutors office had videos of Hailey being hit, they told Kathy and her husband they couldn’t prove Hailey was involved in that accident. Supposedly, they woud be lucky to get a manslaughter charge out of it. She was told David’s case was the stronger of the two.
It all came down to what Rodriguez-Larios knew. Kathy remembers telling prosecutors, “Baloney! You mean to tell me you can prove that he knew the boy was trapped under the vehicle, but you can’t prove he knew my daughter was on the hood of the vehicle, right there in front of him!? Baloney!”
In May of 2018, Kathy finally received stunted justice. Her daughter’s killer was finally behind bars. He received the 17 year sentence, which meant he would be paroled in February of 2021. At least, that’s what would happen if he wasn’t taking classes in jail designed to lessen his sentence. Kathy fears this would put his release date somewhere in 2020.
To this day, Kathy has “a hard time understanding how it is that if you’re not in this country legally, and you commit such a heinous crime, how do we as a society say it’s ok to give you bond and put you back on our streets where you should never have been to begin with? I have a really big problem with that”
Kathy ponders the justice in allowing an illegal alien to work a plea deal and give him an early release, and send him on his way. Our own US citizens go to jail and get paroled, and they are monitored. She believes Rodriguez-Larios will not have to do that. He will be taken back to Mexico.
Possible Immigration Fraud
Or, at least that’s how it is supposed to be. Kathy recalls that at the sentencing hearing, prosecutors stated that Rodriguez-Larios was not a US Citizen, but that he was a legal permanent resident. Concerned about that, Kathy called ICE and Victims Of Immigration Crime Engaged (VOICE) herself. What she found out was strange, to say the least. VOICE told her he was 100% illegal.
Then they did their research and found the state had allowed her daughter’s killer to get married before sentencing. He had a big wedding that December to a UScitizen, and now he has a baby born here. Which means that, though there is a hold on him with Immigration, and he should go back to Mexico, ICE probably will not bother with him. His marriage and his baby now makes it difficult at best to deport him.
The man from VOICE who called her wept as he told her they were not contacted about her daughters death til she herself did it. Right now they do not know what is going to happen. Even if Rodriguez-Larios is deported, he could return in five years because he is married to a US citizen and has a child with her. The restitution order she asked for, but wasn’t granted, had a clause stating he could not return until restitution is fully paid.
Somebody’s Telling Lies
Kathy spent time speaking with her state legislators and anyone else she could find about her daughters case. She was called to testify at the Arkansas State Judiciary Committee regarding her daughters killer. She remembers they bounced back and forth on the issue of his citizenship.
At that hearing she heard Arkansas State Troopers testify to the fact that there were two ICE detention facilities in the state of Arkansas. One of them was in Fayetteville, where her daughter was killed. She had been told that if ICE were called in, her daughter’s killer would be taken to Louisiana. He would be deported from there, and never serve time for her daughter’s death.
Build The Wall
Kathy says she doesn’t understand why illegal aliens are protected by our own government. “It’s giving us no justice,” she says. “I have to live every single day knowing my daughter’s death could have been prevented if there had been a wall. It could have been prevented.”
Kathy recalls during the proceedings that she was told at one point, when she kept asking questions concerning immigration, that she wouldn’t be allowed into the courtroom to view the trial if she were a witness or gave a victim impact statement. Her question is “Why is that? I’m not a witness to anything. And the victim impact statement comes after you plead guilty. If he is found not guilty, you don’t give a victim impact statement.”
A Matter of Space?
Something else that has been bothering her is that on the day of sentencing, they chose not to consider him a flight risk. They gave him two weeks to get his affairs in order before incarceration. Kathy says she spoke up. “Wait a minute,” she said, “My daughter didn’t get two weeks to get her affairs in order before she was killed. He’s been free for 17 months. Why would you give him another two weeks?”
The response was there were no beds available at the jail, and it’s a matter of space. Kathy and her husband checked later that night. There were 19 arrests made that night. Some of them were for unpaid traffic tickets.
Hailey was always happy, even though she had 75% hearing loss, and was months away from receiving cochlear implants at the time of her death. She was born at 30 weeks and had to overcome a whole host of health problems. She had a lot of problems with the kids in her Colorado school because of her speech. Her parents thought a nice small town would be easier on her.
So they moved back to Arkansas for her teenage years. It wasn’t easier for her. She struggled, eventually having a baby at an early age. Hailey’s baby was everything to her. After Hailey died, Kathy and her husband filed to adopt their granddaughter. The state of Arkansas conducted an illegal adoption and gave the baby to non family members, and they haven’t seen her since.
Kathy says they still haven’t notified her of the adoption. She found out through pictures they found online. They were not allowed to step into the courtroom, nor did they have their day in court. In fact, they were misdirected when they tried. They showed up to a hearing where the foster parents were.
Know Thine Enemy…
As she listened, Kathy could not believe that not one time was she addressed. No one spoke to her, and when the foster parents kept asking if the child was adoptable, the court told them she was. Kathy wrote on her notepad to her lawyer, “Why aren’t you saying anything?” He told her the case before them wasn’t theirs.
He told them that their case was next, but when the case was over the judge called a recess. Afterward the bailiff came out and said, “That’s it. Court is over.” Today they have a new lawyer, and they are waiting on a court date. Kathy remembers finding the foster parents facebook in July of 2017. She says there was a picture of her granddaughter standing next to a sign that read, “Adoption Day!” It was like the night Hailey died all over again.
Kathy tells us her husband served in the military for 26 years. He was injured and almost killed in Iraq. He still says to this day, “At least in a war zone, you knew who your enemy was.” He nearly gave his life for a country that ended up turning it’s back on him. Kathy says “It eats at you, every day. Hailey’s death is never going to make sense.” She adds that maybe if Hailey’s story was told, and we could get something done, that would help the healing a little bit.