HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The driver in connection with the death of a woman who was fatally struck while doing yard work at her Henrico home was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Osmaira Mendez-Urdaneta appeared in court Monday morning for a preliminary hearing — her first appearance since arriving back in the United States.
Authorities said Osmaira E. Mendez-Urdaneta was located by Interpol, a worldwide police organization, in Europe. Investigators said Mendez-Urdaneta had fled the United States after she ran over 59-year-old Beverly Page Bourgeois in August 2018.
During the hearing, the judge decided to charge Mendez-Urdaneta with involuntary manslaughter, despite the defense and prosecution agreeing that Mendez-Urdaneta fell asleep at the wheel. A person convicted of involuntary manslaughter is supposed to show a “reckless disregard for human life.”
Mendez-Urdaneta originally faced misdemeanor charges. The prosecutor, Rob Cerullo, told 8News that the only way they could get Mendez- Urdaneta back to the U.S. from Spain was if they dropped the misdemeanors and charged her with a felony.
The defense and prosecution agree on the facts of the case: Mendez-Urdaneta was on her way from Chippenham hospital where she had been awake for more than 48 hours. Mendez-Urdaneta’s husband was hospitalized after having a stroke a couple of days prior.
Mendez-Urdaneta was going to take a nap and then go to work. She cleaned homes for a living.
Bourgeois was trimming bushes about 60 yards from the road on Aug. 16, 2018, when she was hit by a car on North Parham Road, near JR Tucker High School. She died a few weeks after the accident.
After the accident, Mendez-Urdaneta told Henrico County Police Officers “I shouldn’t be driving,” and “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
Mendez-Urdaneta told officers that her head was nodding before the crash. In court, an HCPD officer said after the accident, he asked Mendez- Urdaneta if she was injured but she said “don’t worry about me” and to keep helping the victim.
On Monday, the defense argued that she should get a lesser charge because of the circumstances.
“As you heard from the evidence today, she has been remorseful from the moment that it happened. This wasn’t a case where you’ve got someone who wasn’t thinking about other people or was drinking too heavily and caused a death and doesn’t care. This isn’t that kind of case at all. It’s tragic on all sides,” Defense Attorney Russ Stone told 8News.
“You’ve forced me to really think about this hard,” the judge said to the defense before making a decision.
However, the judge sided with the prosecution because of two reasons:
1. Mendez-Urdaneta was awake for 48 hours, she should have known not to drive.
2. Her head was nodding, she should have realized she was too tired to drive.
“This result is not particularly surprising but it’s an important date for the defense because we want to hear what kind of evidence the government had, “Stone said.
“We’re happy the process is moving along here so we can get to the end of this,” Arden Bourgeois, the victim’s stepson, told 8News, “continue to heal and rebuild our family the best we can.”
Mendez-Urdaneta’s family members were in court, some visibly upset. “They are concerned, they are scared, worried,” Stone said.
A jury trial date will be set in May.
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