A district attorney in California lashed out in court this week, saying an allegedly impaired driver accused of killing a pregnant Disneyland employee now faces murder and other charges following previous DUI convictions in 2008, 2015 and 2016.
Courtney Fritz Pandolfi, 40, of Garden Grove, was charged Thursday with murder, driving under the influence of drugs causing injury, and driving on a suspended license, the Orange County Register reported. The first two counts are felonies while the third is a misdemeanor.
“This is beyond shocking and it is absolutely reprehensible,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement of Pandolfi’s latest DUI arrest, which followed the death of Yesenia Lisette Aguilar, 23, who succumbed in a hospital soon after being struck on a sidewalk in Anaheim on Tuesday.
“This is beyond shocking and it is absolutely reprehensible. … This was 100 percent preventable.”
— Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer
Aguilar’s husband, who was with her, was not injured, the report said. After striking the victim, Pandolfi’s jeep continued down a sidewalk until the vehicle “became disabled,” authorities said.
Aguilar was eight months pregnant, according to the Register. Medical staff managed to save her unborn daughter via an emergency C-section, and the DA’s office said the infant was in critical condition as of Thursday night, the newspaper reported.
Medical staff were hopeful for the baby's survival after a respiratory tube was removed Thursday and the infant, named Adalyn Rose, was breathing on her own, KABC-TV of Los Angeles reported.
The victim, an Anaheim resident, was an employee at Disneyland, KTLA-TV of Los Angeles reported.
“We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of our cast member Yesenia Aguilar and we offer our deepest condolences to her family, friends and loved ones,” a Disneyland spokesperson told the station.
“There is no reason why a 23-year-old mother is dead and her daughter will grow up without ever seeing her mother’s smile or hearing her voice,” Spitzer’s statement continued. “This was 100 percent preventable. This woman [Pandolfi] knew the consequences of driving under the influence and she did it anyway."
Courtney Fritz Pandolfi, 40, faces murder and other charges in connection with a fatal DUI crash Tuesday in Anaheim, Calif., authorities say. (Anaheim Police Department)
According to Spitzer, Tuesday’s crash was “not an accident” so much as “a choice – and it was a deadly one.”
After all three previous DUI convictions, Pandolfi was given a warning that’s known as a “Watson advisement,” the Register reported. It informs suspects convicted of DUI that they could face murder charges if someone dies as the result of a subsequent DUI incident.
Proof that a convicted DUI driver received a Watson advisement in the past allows prosecutors to pursue a charge of second-degree murder, instead of vehicular manslaughter, if a DUI-related death occurs, according to the Register.
Pandolfi appeared in court Thursday but did not enter a plea, the newspaper reported. She is expected to return to court Sept. 4.
If convicted, Pandolfi could face life in prison. She was being held in the county jail on $3 million bail.