The mother of a man sentenced for a fatal hit-and-run that killed a Mission Beach woman got down on her knees in court, asking for the family of the victim to understand that her son is a good person.
Maruta Gardner, known to be a pillar of her community, was struck and killed while cleaning graffiti off a street corner. Now, almost seven months later, the driver who killed her learned his fate.
Jonathan Domingo Garcia, 24, appeared in a downtown courtroom Tuesday as a judge sentenced him to 11 years behind bars for his role in the fatal hit-and-run crash that killed Gardner.
He spoke briefly, expressing his apology for the February 12 crash.
"I really want to apologize to the family and I want tell them I'm very sorry from the bottom of my heart," he said. "I never intentionally would do something like this if I was in the right state of mind."
Gardner, 69, died from injuries she suffered when she was hit by a car near Jetty Road and Mission Boulevard.
Garcia was behind the wheel of the vehicle that struck Gardner.
Investigators say the defendant was involved in a road rage incident with an unknown driver behind the wheel of a white Ford Mustang when he drove along the shoulder at speeds nearly twice the posted limit.
Friends told NBC 7 that for 20 years, Gardner rode her signature three-wheeled bicycle, hauling supplies and paint.
They say that at the time of the crash, Gardner was doing something she often did: improving the quality of life for her neighbors in the Mission Beach community.
At his sentencing, Garcia's mother addressed the court and turned to Gardner's family, apologizing for her son's actions.
He "has always been an exceptional son," she told them, adding that he had a heart of gold.
"He did not mean to hurt anybody," she said.
When the sentencing was over, Gardner's husband hugged Garcia's mother, stepfather and father.