Crime - Sacto 911

Driver who hit pregnant woman in Rio Linda won’t be charged in the baby’s death

‘Have no mercy on him’ — mother of DUI hit-and-run victim speaks out at felony arraignment

Latisha Strianese, the mother of Ciara Villegas, speaks out following the felony arraignment of Ronny Ward III, at Sacramento Superior Court, Tuesday, April 23, 2019, the suspect in the hit-and-run of Villegas and her unborn son who later who died.
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Latisha Strianese, the mother of Ciara Villegas, speaks out following the felony arraignment of Ronny Ward III, at Sacramento Superior Court, Tuesday, April 23, 2019, the suspect in the hit-and-run of Villegas and her unborn son who later who died.

A man accused of driving drunk and hitting a pregnant woman will not be charged with the death of her baby, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office said Friday evening.

Ronny Ward III is accused of crashing his Jeep into a parked Chevrolet Impala, which Ciara Villegas had just exited a few feet away from her mother’s house in Rio Linda, according to friends and a news release. The collision occurred about 8 p.m. April 8 on M Street near Fourth Avenue.

The impact from the Jeep pushed the sedan into the 31-year-old Villegas, who was six months pregnant. She was rushed to a hospital in critical condition, and her baby was delivered by emergency cesarean section.

Villegas named him Ricky. He died a few days later.

Despite the circumstances, the District Attorney’s Office said it will be unable to prosecute Ward in the child’s death.

“It would be impossible not to recognize and acknowledge the senseless tragedy of this case,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi. “However, this office, like all prosecutors’ offices, is bound by our professional ethics and the law.”

Instead, prosecutors will charge Ward, 23, with driving under the influence and inflicting serious bodily injury on Villegas, Grippi said in a statement emailed to The Bee. He explained that vehicular manslaughter does not include actions that result in the death of a fetus.

“Our charging decision is based entirely on the law and the evidence before us,” he said. “It should not be interpreted as a diminishment of the loss of life that occurred.”

But Villegas’ mother, Latisha Strianese, thinks Ward should pay for what he has done. She attended his arraignment in late April and held up two photos of the child she will never get to meet.

“I wanted to show him what he’s done to my family,” Strianese told reporters on April 23. “We’re broken and we’ll never be repaired. There’s a man sitting in front of me who killed my grandson and hurt my daughter very badly.”

A GoFundMe was set up for Villegas’ family to pay funeral costs and other expenses. It had raised more than $13,000 as of Friday.

Ward’s next court appearance is at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, according to jail logs.

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Meghan Bobrowsky, from Scripps College, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee, focusing on breaking news and school funding. She grew up in nearby Davis.
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