PALMDALE – Close to 200 friends and family members gathered Sunday night to remember Giselle Mendoza, the 16-year-old Palmdale High School student killed in her sleep when an alleged drunk driver rammed his SUV through her bedroom wall early Easter morning.
Loved ones shared hugs, tears and Easter prayers around a photo collage of Giselle, propped up by flowers and lit candles.
Giselle was a happy person who liked to exercise, said her sister Yadira Mendoza, who remembered walking with Giselle at Pelona Vista Park just this past Wednesday.
“She meant everything [to me], she was my bigger sister,” Yadira said.
Father Alberto Mendoza cried as he spoke in Spanish about his devastation. He said his daughter was always going to be in his heart, and he was thankful that she apparently didn’t suffer before passing away in her sleep.
The candlelight vigil was held at the crash site around 8 p.m., Sunday, April 20, just minutes after alleged drunk driver Roberto Rodriguez bailed out of jail.
“It wasn’t my intention… I’m sorry,” Rodriguez told NBC Los Angeles, who caught up with the 20-year-old right after his release.
Witnesses estimated Rodriguez was going about 80 miles per hour when he apparently lost control of his Nissan Pathfinder and crashed through Mendoza’s bedroom wall early Sunday morning.
Around 3:50 a.m., a Palmdale Sheriff’s deputy on patrol noticed the sports utility vehicle embedded into the wall of the apartment building, in the 1000 block of East Avenue R. Witnesses at the scene had already detained Rodriguez, sheriff’s official said. Read more details on the crash here.
Various media outlets have reported that Rodriguez was twice the legal limit at the time of the crash. He was arrested around 4:40 a.m. Sunday for driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter, with bail set at $100,000 bail.
Rodriguez was released that same day, around 7:49 p.m., after posting bond, sheriff’s officials said.
He is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday, April 22.
No charges had been filed against Roberto Rodriguez as of Tuesday, April 22, because the case had not yet been presented to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, according to LADA spokesman Ricardo Santiago. A new arraignment date will be set once charges are filed.
Roberto Rodriguez was charged May 19 with murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage causing injury and driving with a .08% blood alcohol content causing injury. The case also alleges Rodríguez caused great bodily injury upon the victim, Giselle Mendoza. Rodriguez pleaded not guilty on May 20.
Previous related story: Suspected drunk driver crashes SUV into Palmdale apartment, 16-year-old girl killed