Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the hit-and-run death of a pedestrian — a Tehachapi teenage girl — in which the driver was driving under the influence, according to California Highway Patrol reports.
Local media covered a press conference Wednesday morning hosted by Matthew C. Clark and Neil Gehlawat from the personal injury and workers’ compensation* law firm. They were joined by the mother and sister of Leslie Balderrama, who was killed in October last year.
Read the news release and click the media links to see full coverage of the press conference and criminal case.
Bakersfield, Calif. – Leslie Elaine Balderrama was a freshman at Tehachapi High School who excelled in school and out of school, including on the basketball court and through various volunteer endeavors. Add her contagious smile and bright personality, and Leslie was in a league of her own, her family says.
On Oct. 10, 2015, Leslie was walking home from a friend’s house when she was suddenly struck by a pickup truck on the dirt right shoulder of State Route 202. She eventually succumbed to her injuries, just 15 days shy of her 15th birthday.
The occupants of the truck – Issac Macias, 20, and passenger Ibrahim Essa Gomes, 19 – fled the scene of the crash without calling the police or summoning medical help. Both Macias and Gomes were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. After the pickup collided with Leslie, Gomes got out of the pickup and looked at her, telling CHP officers later that “she didn’t look like she got that messed up,” despite her not moving. Macias never got out of the pickup.
Despite driving under the influence of alcohol, killing Balderrama, and fleeing the scene, Macias to this date has not been charged with a crime. Gomes, too, has not been charged.
On Wednesday, Chain | Cohn | Stiles will file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Leslie’s mother, Evelyn Denise Natividad, against Macias and Gomes, as well as Exelon Generation Company, LLC and First Solar, Inc., who employed Macias at the time of the collision and entrusted him with the pickup.
During the press conference, attorney Matt Clark called the suspects in the crash “despicable” and said he has confidence that the Kern County District Attorney’s Office is working on filing criminal charges against the two.
“In my opinion, that is truly despicable conduct. They have every obligation to summon medical help,” Clark said of the hit-and-run under the influence that left Leslie dead. “I have every reason to believe charges are coming. In this type of case, there really needs to be an example set.”
Additionally, mother Denise Natividad spoke about her daughter, and her commitment to school, sports and her community.
“It’s hard every day I have to live without her.”
* Editor’s Note: Neil Gehlawat is no longer an attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles *
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MEDIA COVERAGE (FATAL HIT-AND-RUN)
- Young pedestrian killed on Highway 202; 2 locals arrested (Tehachapi News)
- Tehachapi teen girl dies in hit and run and CHP says alcohol may have been a factor (KGET-17, NBC)
- 2 arrested in hit-and-run crash that left girl dead (KBAK / KBFX 29-58, CBS / FOX)
- Family of Tehachapi teen killed in hit and run struggling for answers (KERO-23, ABC)
- Leslie Elaine Balderrama, 2000-2015 (Tehachapi News, Obituary)
- Basketball team remembers Tehachapi teen killed in hit and run (KERO-23, ABC)
MEDIA COVERAGE (PRESS CONFERENCE / WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT)
- Chain | Cohn | Stiles files lawsuit on behalf of family of Tehachapi teenager killed in DUI hit and run (KGET-17, NBC)
- Lawsuit filed for family of girl killed in crash (KBAK / KBFX 29-58, CBS / FOX)
- Wrongful death lawsuit filed in hit-and-run that killed teen girl (The Bakersfield Californian)
- Family of teen killed in hit and run formally files civil charges (KERO-23, ABC) (Yahoo News)
- Wrongful death lawsuit filed in hit-and-run that killed teen girl (Tehachapi News)
- Family of Tehachapi teen killed in hit and run crash files wrongful death lawsuit (KGET-17, NBC)
MEDIA COVERAGE (SENTENCING)
- Two sentenced in hit-and-run that killed Tehachapi teen (The Bakersfield Californian – Nov. 30, 2016)
- Two men sentenced for deadly Tehachapi hit and run that killed 14-year-old Leslie Balderrama (KERO-23, ABC – Nov. 30, 2016)
- Two men sentenced in deadly hit-and-run, DUI collision (Eyewitness News, KBAK-29 CBS – Nov. 30, 2016)