Driver gets 1 year in hit-run death of woman, 86
The judge cites the clean background of the 23-year-old despite a poor driving record
When Betty Santiago celebrated her sister's 90th birthday in January 2006, she expressed hope that she could live as long and remain as active.
A week later, on Jan. 17, the 86-year-old grandmother from Wahiawa was dead, the victim of a fatal hit-and-run.
Jatios Jatios, 23, the driver of the car that hit Santiago, was sentenced yesterday to a year in jail and five years' probation.
Jatios, of Waipahu, pleaded guilty in December to failing to remain at the scene of an accident and second-degree negligent homicide.
Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto admonished Jatios, noting that his driving has brought danger and death to Oahu's roadways. "Your haste has made waste of a beautiful life," Sakamoto said.
But the judge said Jatios has led a responsible life, for the most part, by supporting his family, having steady employment and keeping his criminal record clean until this incident. He ordered Jatios to pay the Santiago family restitution of $8,432 and revoked his driver's license for five years.
The sentence disappointed the Santiago family, who had opposed probation and sought the maximum 10-year term.
"It's not enough," said a teary-eyed Susan Sheldon, one of Santiago's five children.
Betty Santiago was crossing Nimitz Highway near the Iwilei Kmart to go to Flora-Dec. Cars in the right and middle lane had stopped for her. But Jatios, who was on his way home from work, swerved around them and struck Santiago "nearly head-on," said Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Tashima.
"She flew over the hood of the vehicle -- there was no way he could not have known what he had done," Tashima said.
Rather than stop and help, Jatios fled. The white car he was driving was later found in Waipahu.
Jatios, through a Marshallese interpreter, gave a brief statement in court yesterday, saying he was sorry to the Santiago family and did not intend to hurt anyone. He said he understood how dear Santiago was to her family.
Deputy public defender Gary Oakes said: "He did change lanes, was not paying complete attention and didn't see her and tragically hit her.
"He was scared, not sure what to do."
Jatios turned himself in two days later after talking with his family and after police issued a plea for the driver to surrender.
Oakes said Jatios works seven days a week to support his family and two children, and is not an uncaring individual who goes out and commits crimes.
But Tashima argued that Jatios' traffic abstract showed that he had a history of disregarding the law.
In November and December 2005, Jatios was cited twice for speeding, driving 83 mph in a 55 mph zone and 53 mph in a 35 mph zone. Then on Christmas Day 2005, he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Santiago's family packed the courtroom gallery, and a box of Kleenex was passed around as family members described to the court how the death of their beloved matriarch had caused a void in their lives.
"Every time there is a (traffic) fatality, we relive Jan. 17 all over again," said Sheldon.
Santiago's death was one of 20 pedestrian fatalities on Oahu in 2006.