Local News

Woman Pleads Guilty to Fatal Hit-and-Run

Posted June 4, 2007 11:27 a.m. EDT
Updated June 4, 2007 6:25 p.m. EDT

— A 26-year-old woman pleaded guilty Monday to a hit-and-run accident last fall that killed a man who had earlier survived a road rage shooting.

A tearful Yokairi Diaz, of 5501-101 Reunion Pointe in Raleigh, pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and felony hit-and-run in connection with the Sept. 7 death of Neil Anderson.

Superior Court Judge J.B. Allen sentenced Diaz to six to eight months in jail on the hit-and-run charge and placed her on probation for three years on the DWI charge.

Defense attorney John McWilliam said Diaz often breaks down when thinking of the accident and was willing to accept responsibility for Anderson's death and Allen's judgment.

"She understood that she took a life. She feels really, really remorseful about that. The fact is that she panicked," McWilliam said.

Diaz made a tearful apology to the packed courtroom, but Anderson's family and friends said it came much too late.

"If she was truly sorry, she would have picked up the phone, or she would have said to (McWilliam), 'I really need to get in touch with this family,' and it would have helped," said Anderson's mother, Jenny Hanna.

Anderson was was celebrating his 23rd birthday with friends and left a bar on Capital Boulevard near Durant Road. As he crossed Capital, he was hit by a car and killed, and the driver never stopped, police said.

Friends and relatives sobbed in court as they asked Allen to give Diaz a harsh sentence.

"It's tore us apart. We are a close family. Each one of our children has gone through hell just trying to deal with it individually, and we're trying to help them," said Anderson's father, Alex Anderson.

A grand jury declined to indict Diaz on manslaughter or other more serious charges in connection with the accident because Anderson was legally drunk at the time of his death and was negligent in crossing the road.

Anderson's blood-alcohol content was 0.23 percent at the time of his death, almost three times the legal limit for intoxication in North Carolina.

Diaz was arrested at a nearby apartment complex after police located a car matching the description of the one that hit Anderson. She registered a blood-alcohol content of 0.05 percent six hours after the accident, and Assistant Wake County District Attorney Jeff Cruden said experts estimated her blood-alcohol at 0.14 percent at the time of the hit-and-run.

Alex Anderson said the jail sentence given to Diaz is a small price to pay for his son's life, and he said state laws on contributory negligence need to be changed.

"It has to change. It has to change, and drunk driving needs to be taken very seriously for everybody," he said.

Neil Anderson already had cheated death once in his life.

He was riding in an SUV on eastbound Interstate 40 in January 2005 when two men he and his friends had argued with earlier pulled up in the next lane and fired a shotgun into the vehicle. Anderson was struck in the face and spent months recovering from his wounds.

Two Onslow County men were convicted in the case.