Conviction reversed for woman who hit, killed girls playing in l - KPTV - FOX 12

Conviction reversed for woman who hit, killed girls playing in leaves in Forest Grove

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Cinthya Garcia-Cisneros (KPTV file image) Cinthya Garcia-Cisneros (KPTV file image)
Abigail Robinson, Anna Dieter-Eckerdt (Family photo/KPTV) Abigail Robinson, Anna Dieter-Eckerdt (Family photo/KPTV)

The Oregon Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction of a woman who hit and killed two girls playing in a pile of leaves in Forest Grove in 2013.

In a decision filed Wednesday, the appeals court ruled the trial court "erred" in denying a motion for acquittal for Cinthya Garcia-Cisneros.

A jury convicted Garcia-Cisneros on two counts of failure to perform the duties of a driver to injured persons in January 2014.

Garcia-Cisneros was sentenced to probation and community service, but no time in prison.

Garcia-Cisneros was arrested in October 2013 in connection with the deaths of 11-year-old Abigail Robinson and 6-year-old Anna Dieter-Eckerdt.

Garcia-Cisneros drove her boyfriend's SUV through a leaf pile on Main Street in Forest Grove and felt a "bump," according to court documents.

Garcia-Cisneros, then 18 years old, told investigators it felt like a pothole and passengers in the car assumed it was a log or a rock.

After arriving home a few blocks away, they looked at the front of the SUV and did not see any damage.

Court documents state Garcia-Cisneros' brother then rode his bike toward his girlfriend's home and saw the father of Abigail and Anna screaming near the pile of leaves. Anna was pronounced dead at the scene and Abigail died the next day at the hospital. 

Garcia-Cisneros' brother turned around and told her that she had hit the girls. Court documents state she did not believe him at first, but then began to cry and hyperventilate.

Her boyfriend drove the SUV to a car wash and then to his house to protect her, according to court documents, but police received a tip about Garcia-Cisneros crying and two men examining the SUV.

At the time of her arrest, police said Garcia-Cisneros had "made no effort" to contact the family of the victims or law enforcement.

At trial, Garcia-Cisneros' attorney moved for an acquittal, saying the state failed to prove she knew the incident resulted in injuries while she was at the scene of the crash, adding Oregon law does not require a driver to return to the scene of an accident after learning someone was hurt.

That motion was denied, which the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled was a mistake. The appeals court stated Oregon law, "does not require a defendant to return to the scene of the accident after he or she has left the scene and later learns that he or she was involved in an accident that injured or killed another person."

"In this case, it is undisputed that defendant did not know that she had hit two people until after she had driven away from the scene of the accident and arrived at her house," according to court documents.

Garcia-Cisneros was taken into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody after her conviction in 2014. ICE reported that she was being placed in "removal proceedings." However, her case was dismissed by an immigration judge in August 2014 and she was released from ICE custody.  

Her boyfriend, Mario Echeverria, pleaded guilty to the charge of hindering prosecution and was sentenced to 13 months in prison in December 2013. He was also 18 years old at the time.

Family members of the girls who were killed offered forgiveness to both Garcia-Cisneros and Echeverria in court in 2013 and 2014.  

Washington County prosecutor Bracken McKey released a statement Wednesday expressing his disappointment in the decision of the appeals court. 

"Today's Court of Appeals opinion held that drivers have no responsibilities under Oregon's failure to perform the duties of a driver statute if they are no longer at the scene when they learn they were involved in a crash. In this case it was less than a block away and less than five minutes later, when the defendant learned that she had seriously injured and possibly killed two little girls. Justice Egan's opinion states that the defendant had no responsibility to return to the scene, provide aid, call 911, give a statement to the police or do any of the things that the judge and jury unanimously found the defendant was required to do," McKey said.

McKey said the case cannot be re-prosecuted because the appeals court concluded that the law was not broken, as opposed to a reversal for misconduct or an irregularity in the trial.    

"I am deeply saddened for the victims and their family," McKey said. 

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