Young driver gets 15 years for woman's death

By Chuck Weber

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX)-A man who hit and killed a local woman, while driving drunk, is headed to prison. 24-year old Renee Rodriguez was in a West Palm Beach courtroom Tuesday to take plea deal negotiated with prosecutors.

With tears in his eyes, Rodriguez apologized to the family of 49-year old JoAnn Padilla of Greenacres, who was killed in a violent crash in downtown Lake Worth nearly a year ago.

Investigators say Rodriguez was drunk when he ran a red light and hit Padilla's car. As he tried to drive off, Rodriguez smashed into Padilla's car again. Rodriguez then ran on foot, but a bystander ultimately chased him down.

"She was one of the best sisters you could think of," said Elizabeth Medina, addressing Rodriguez in court. "You are a serious monster. You could have helped her. I can't forgive you right now, Renee."

Under the plea deal, Rodriguez gets 15 years in prison and permanently loses his driver's license.

"I'm just glad this is over right now," said Moises Padilla, the victim's husband, after the hearing. "I know he may be remorseful. But it's hard to convince me right now that he really is.

"He's not a monster," said Angelina Rodriguez, the mother of the accused. She and two sisters agreed Renee had to pay for his crime, but also talked about his kind acts during his life.

"What my son did," said Mrs. Rodriguez, "even the years he's going to pay for it, can never bring her back. And we understand that. I hope someday they can forgive him."