Victim's Family: He's Getting Away With Murder

By Tony Shin
|  Thursday, Jan 14, 2010  |  Updated 11:15 AM PDT
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Pregnant Woman, Killed by Alleged Drunk Driver

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Pregnant Woman, Killed by Alleged Drunk Driver

Her family was planning her baby shower. Now they're planning her funeral.
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The family of a pregnant woman who was killed by a suspected drunk driver is outraged because they say the suspect is getting away with murder not once, but twice.

For the first time, family members of Elaina Ortiz, 21, got a chance to see her alleged killer in person.  After several postponed court appearances because of medical reasons, Joseph Anthony Venegas, 40, was arraigned the San Diego County Courthouse on Wednesday.

Venegas is accused of killing Ortiz, who was six months pregnant, in a fiery crash on Interstate 805 during the early morning hours of New Year's Day.

"A good man would say in court, you know what your honor, I am guilty, I did this and I don't want to cause the family any more pain than I've already done," said the victim's sister Julie Pineda.

But Venegas, through his attorney, pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors charged Venegas with gross vehicular manslaughter for the death of Ortiz and two other DUI related offenses.

Pineda was outraged that Venegas wasn't charged with the murder of her sister and her unborn nephew. She believes Venegas should have been charged with double murder.

"It's murder, he killed my sister and killed the baby inside her," Pineda said.

Deputy District Attorney Corinne Miesfeld said the killing didn't rise to the level of murder because of a lack of malice.  She also said charges could not be brought against Venegas for the death of the unborn baby.

"The law, as it is written today under manslaughter, does not provide for the death of a fetus,"Miesfeld said.

"There's nothing that's going to bring her (Ortiz) back, but I feel he deserves life," said Ortiz' sister Christina Valadez. "It looks like he's going to get away with this."

But Venegas' sister said that her brother will never forgive himself and must carry a heavy burden to his grave. 

"My brother is going to be paying a price for the rest of his life," Rosemary Venegas said.

If convicted Venegas could get a maximum of 16 years and eight months in prison.

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