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September 21, 2004
Ledesma admits guilt in hit-and-run wreck in Santa Ana that killed teenager

By Amanda Beck

SANTA ANA – Karen Morchy broke into tears Monday as a Santa Ana man admitted in court that he had driven drunk, collided with her daughter's car, then fled the scene as her 15-year-old Sara lay dying.

"It's her 16th birthday next week. I get to spend it in a graveyard," Karen Morchy said. "I should be going to high school football games."

Francisco Ledesma, 27, faces up to 11 years in prison, three years on parole and possible deportation for vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run, Superior Court Judge Patrick Donahue said Monday.

Sentencing is set for Nov. 5. But Morchy said she fears even the sentencing will bring little peace.

"My last vision of my daughter was a swollen, bruised, battered face. ... And I couldn't even touch her because she was part of a crime," Morchy said.

"She didn't have cancer or some kind of terminal illness. She was a healthy, vibrant kid. And that is what is so unfair: I never had the chance to say goodbye."

Ledesma was driving a van in Santa Ana on Feb. 1 when he collided with the Chevrolet Avalanche that carried Sara and six other passengers.

During the crash, the Avalanche rolled several times. No one else was injured, but Sara was ejected from the vehicle and died within minutes.

Meanwhile, Ledesma drove several blocks from the scene. He was followed by several witnesses and eventually pulled over.

Ledesma's wife and the mother of his two children, Gabriela Hernandez, watched quietly as he admitted his guilt Monday.

She said the incident was an accident and that his incarceration hurt their family.

"My husband never intended for anyone to be hurt," Hernandez said. "We are really sorry for what happened."

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