Orange County DUI driver who killed pregnant woman is sentenced to 15 years to life

Santa Ana, CA - April 12: Courtney Fritz Pandolfi, left, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for a deadly collision that killed a pregnant mom and left her baby fighting for her life, is shown with defense attorney Fred Fascenelli, and was sentenced to 15-life with possibility of parole after serving 15 years at Central Justice Center in Santa Ana Friday, April 12, 2024. Yesenia Aguilar, who was eight-months pregnant with Adalyn at the time, were taking their daily walk when she was struck and killed on the sidewalk by convicted drunk driver Courtney Fritz Pandolfi. Doctors were able to perform a C-section and save Adalyn. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Courtney Fritz Pandolfi, in court with defense lawyer Fred Fascenelli for her sentencing Friday, was on multiple drugs when she jumped a curb in her Jeep and hit Yesenia Aguilar in 2020. Aguilar's baby survived, but she did not. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

An Orange County driver who pleaded guilty to fatally hitting a pregnant woman while driving under the influence of a cocktail of drugs in 2020 was sentenced on Friday to 15 years to life in prison.

The Orange County district attorney's office said Courtney Fritz Pandolfi, 44, already had multiple DUI convictions when she got behind the wheel on Aug. 11, 2020, while high on a combination of drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamine, and fatally hit 23-year-old Yesenia Aguilar.

Read more: DUI driver who killed pregnant woman pleads guilty. Emergency C-section saved baby

Aguilar was eight months pregnant and out walking with her husband in Anaheim when Pandolfi jumped the curb with her Jeep SUV, crashing into a metal newspaper stand before barreling toward the couple and hitting Aguilar.

Prosecutors said Pandolfi continued driving an additional 347 feet without braking before her Jeep became disabled.

The baby, Adalyn Rose, was delivered alive in an emergency C-section.

“A beautiful little girl came into the world fighting like hell to survive the tragedy that took her own mother’s life, and the strength that little girl has shown gave her own father the will to live,” Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said in a statement.

"Adalyn Rose’s first breath will be forever inextricably intertwined with her mother’s last breath," Spitzer continued, "but that little girl will grow up knowing that her mother’s last act on earth was to do whatever she could to protect her unborn baby."

Pandolfi, of Garden Grove, pleaded guilty in February to murder and a variety of other charges, including felony driving under the influence of drugs causing bodily injury and two misdemeanors for driving with a suspended license. Some of the counts stemmed from Pandolfi driving under the influence of drugs in November 2019.

Pandolfi had also been convicted of DUIs in 2008, 2015 and 2016, prosecutors said, and received formal legal warnings each time that she could be charged with murder if she went on to kill someone while driving under the influence.

“My client accomplished today what she wanted to do, which was to spare the family the additional grief and heartache of a trial,” Pandolfi's attorney, Fred Fascenelli, said when she pleaded guilty in February. “She recognizes it was a tragic situation of her making.”

Aguilar's widower, James Alvarez, posted a video on social media of himself leaving the courtroom with his daughter, now 3, after the sentencing. He wrote that after "the toughest 3 years that [he'd] had to endure," it was "finally over."

"I can finally close this chapter of my life," Alvarez wrote on Instagram. "My late wife’s killer finally received the maximum sentence. Even though 15 years to life isn’t enough, I can finally breathe after fighting for so long to get the justice that we deserve. ... and [I] will continue to fight to make sure she never gets out."

He continued: "I was given a second chance in life because I could have died too ... so I’m going to use this second opportunity to do good in this world. I’m going [to be] the voice and strength of every person that lost a loved one from another person’s selfish acts."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.