Orange County DUI driver who killed pregnant woman pleads guilty

An Orange County woman has pleaded guilty to murder after fatally running over a pregnant woman whose child was later delivered by emergency caesarean section.

Prosecutors say Courtney Fritz Pandolfi, 44, of Garden Grove struck 23-year-old Yesenia Aguilar while she was walking in Anaheim with her husband, James Alvarez, around 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 11, 2020.

Both he and the couple’s daughter, Adalyn Rose, were in the courtroom Tuesday when Pandolfi pleaded guilty to murder, felony driving under the influence of drugs and misdemeanor driving with a suspended license. She also pleaded guilty to three additional misdemeanors for driving under the influence of drugs in November 2019.

She is due to be sentenced on April 12, and faces a maximum sentence of 15 years to life.

“This is a woman who made a habit of driving while high,” Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “She was warned over and over again about the dangers of her actions. She knew it was wrong, but she decided that being high was more important than the life of a young woman who was just weeks away from becoming a mother for the first time.”

Pandolfi was previously convicted of driving under the influence of drugs in 2008, 2015 and 2016, authorities said.

Frederick Fascenelli, Pandolfi’s attorney, said his client was moved by Alvarez’s empathy. Fascenelli said Alvarez spoke in court on Tuesday and thanked the defendant “for taking responsibility for her conduct” by pleading guilty.

“My client accomplished today what she wanted to do, which was to spare the family the additional grief and heartache of a trial,” Fascenelli said. “She recognizes it was a tragic situation of her making.”

Pandolfi, who Spitzer said was under the influence of cocaine and methamphetamine, was driving a Jeep when she jumped the curb and crashed into a metal newspaper rack before continuing on and hitting Aguilar, who was on the sidewalk.

She neither braked nor took evasive maneuvers, according to Spitzer. The Jeep stopped only after it became disabled, at which point it had traveled 347 feet down the sidewalk.

Adalyn was delivered by emergency C-section the day her mother died.

“Yesenia’s memory will live on through her beautiful little girl,” Spitzer said. “But that little girl is growing up without ever being able to hug her mother or hear her voice because a stranger decided to make the selfish decision to get behind the wheel while high on drugs.”

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