A San Diego judge will soon decide what the sentence will be for a Rancho Penasquitos teenager who struck and killed a man with her car on March 11 and then fled the scene.
Nikolette Gallo was 18 years old when she struck pedestrian Sho Funai, 23, with her car around 4:30 a.m. near the Nimitz Blvd. and Interstate 8 on-ramp in Ocean Beach, according to authorities.
When CHP officials arrived at the scene they found Funai’s lifeless body on the side of the road, but no sign of Gallo.
The following day, Gallo turned herself in to authorities in connection with the fatal hit-and-run accident that ultimately killed Funai.
She went to court on March 20 but was free on bond after that appearance.
On June 11, Gallo plead guilty to hitting Funai and driving away from the scene.
On Thursday, Gallo was back in court for her sentencing.
Funai’s distraught family also appeared at the courthouse, pleading for justice for their loved one.
More than 100 people from Funai’s side showed up to court Thursday to tell a judge why Gallo should get the maximum four-year sentence for the fatal hit-and-run.
Family members also expressed the pain they feel now that Funai – who was a graduate student at UCSD at the time of his death -- is no longer with them.
“I wish to see him one more time, I wish to hold him one more time, and tell him how much I loved him, how much I was proud of him,” said his father Yugi Funai.
His brother, Gho Funai, recalled the last time he actually saw his beloved brother.
"My last physical interaction with him was of my tears falling into his casket,” he said.
Funai’s mother described how she’s still haunted by the night of her son’s death.
“I think about how Sho was lying on the cold road -- so late at night,” said his mother between sobs. “My son is not roadkill.”
As Funai family members took turns talking in the courtroom, Gallo cried.
Gallo, pictured right, who’s now 19 years old, told investigators she had been drinking in the hours prior to the March 11 crash. Gallo claimed she thought she had hit some debris or a sofa on the side of the road, not a person.
The victim’s brother said Funai had been walking near Nimitz Blvd. that night to avoid getting a DUI himself.
“Ironically it was his deep sense of responsibility to walk to the party so he wouldn't have to worry about drinking and driving,” explained the victim’s brother, Daisuke Funai.
Funai’s sister-in-law couldn’t fathom how or why Gallo never even stopped to help.
“When I was 24 I was hit by a car in New York. However, the driver of that car had not been drinking and he stopped to call an ambulance. There's no doubt in my mind that I am alive today because the driver of that car didn't flee the scene,” she said.
Prosecutors believe Gallo didn’t stop to help Funai because she wanted to avoid getting a DUI and more serious charges like vehicular manslaughter.
"The police were not contacted until five hours after the crash allowing alcohol to leave her system; as the court well knows it leaves very quickly,” said Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Zipp.
However, Gallo’s defense attorney Paul Pfingst argued the accident was actually caused by Funai, who was at fault for wandering into traffic.
“Had the deceased not been walking in the middle of the road he would not have been hit by my client. He was almost hit by another car minutes earlier,” said Pfingst.
Gallo’s sentencing is set to continue Friday. The big decision – whether Gallo gets prison time or probation – will be decided by a judge in court tomorrow.