Family Furious Over "Light" Sentence

By Tony Shin
|  Thursday, May 6, 2010  |  Updated 6:31 AM PDT
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Pregnant Woman, Killed by Alleged Drunk Driver

NBCSanDiego

Joseph Venegas at his sentencing in the DUI death of Elaina Ortiz.

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DUI Victim's Family Angry Over Sentence

The family of Elaina Ortiz spoke after the sentencing of the man who killed her in a New Year's Day accident. Joseph Venegas apologized to the families in an emotional court appearance.

Pregnant Woman, Killed by Alleged Drunk Driver

Her family was planning her baby shower. Now they're planning her funeral.
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Joseph Venegas had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit when he killed a pregnant woman and her unborn child on New Year's morning.

On Wednesday, Venegas was sentenced to 12 years in prison, leaving the family of the victim, 21-year old Elaina Ortiz ,shocked and furious.

"It's not justice,"said the victim's husband Francisco Luquis-Ortiz.  "He took my wife, he took my son, he took my life."

During the sentencing, Ortiz's family members pleaded with the judge to give Venegas the maximum sentence of 16 years.

"I'm not going to get my sister back, I'm not going to get my nephew back,"said Christina Valadez.

"I was planning her baby shower, then a couple of weeks later we were planning her funeral,"said the victim's mother Rhonda Zamora.

The crash happened on the shoulder of Interstate 805 near Home Avenue.  Ortiz was helping a friend who had gotten a flat tire when Venegas veered into the shoulder.  He struck a car that Ortiz was sitting inside with two of her friends.  Her friends were seriously injured.

Venegas, 40, has a previous DUI from 18 years ago.  He apologized to Ortiz's family.  "To the parents of her, who lost a beloved daughter and grandchild, I am sorry," Venegas said.

His family also spoke on his behalf and asked the judge for leniency because Venegas spent his life taking care of his elderly parents.  Venegas cried as his family members spoke.

San Diego County Judge Kathleen Lewis weighed many factors including Venegas' remorse before sentencing him to 12 years in state prison.  He could have gotten a maximum of 16 years. 

Family members of  Ortiz called the sentence "light" and hoped Venegas would suffer in prison.  "I hope he dies, I hope he dies in there,"said Yvette Estrada.

"An eye for an eye, I think is justice,"said Francisco Luquis-Ortiz.

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