The Santa Barbara teenager who pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter in the 2010 death of a Montecito pedestrian was sentenced Monday to 45 days in Santa Barbara County Juvenile Hall, 400 hours of community service and probation.
Tyler Fourmy, 18, was charged with striking and killing 47-year-old Florinda Flores with the minivan he was driving as Flores walked to a bus stop less than a block from her Coast Village Road home on May 27, 2010.
Fourmy, who was 17 at the time of the collision, told authorities at the scene that the vehicle had swerved and his brakes didn’t work as he traveled west on Coast Village Road near Butterfly Lane at about 7:30 a.m. that day. The vehicle struck Flores, who was walking west to the bus stop in front of Montecito Bank & Trust, 1106 Coast Village Road, then ran through landscaping and hit a wall before crashing into the side of Bank of America, 1096 Coast Village Road.
Flores died of her injuries after the impact of the collision hurled her into the Butterfly Lane intersection.
Fourmy pleaded no contest to the vehicular manslaughter charge and to misdemeanor and infraction charges of transportation of marijuana, possession of marijuana, driving at an unsafe speed, an unlawful turning movement and failure to provide evidence of financial responsibility for the vehicle.
Before Juvenile Court Judge Thomas Adams issued his ruling Monday morning, Flores’ family addressed the court.
Flores’ husband, Wolfgang Schulz, had attorney Jeffrey Young read a statement. The Probation Department had proposed that Fourmy complete a sentence of 300 hours of community service and serve no time in custody, which seemed inadequate to Schulz.
“Even if I can come to terms with this decision of the legal system, I don’t know how I will ever explain to her (Flores’) now-orphaned teenaged daughter and her family in Mexico that he only received this bit of community service for what he did, and that he wasn’t even held accountable in a full public hearing,” Schulz said.
“I miss Florinda every day and don’t see how the ache in my heart will ever go away,” Schulz’s statement continued. “Whatever sentence is imposed on Tyler Fourmy, I hope he thinks about Florinda every day, too, for the rest of his life — and remembers that she was a kind and loving person who constantly helped others, who aspired to a better life for herself and her daughter, who took nothing for granted, who appreciated the smallest thing, and who worked tirelessly with love and hope in her heart.”
Flores’ brother, Miguel Garcia, and his wife, Cecilia Ortega, said the family has been forever changed by the collision “because of this irresponsible, reckless driver.”
“(Fourmy) is not the victim in this case; we are the victims,” Garcia said. “I’m afraid to ride my bicycle anymore ... I’m afraid to get run over like the way Florinda died.”
Ortega said Flores had big dreams and worked as a caregiver while finishing school so she could eventually become an English teacher back in Mexico. She didn’t come to the United States to lose her life, but to earn a better life for her family, Ortega said.
Public defender Mark Saatjian said the Probation Department’s proposal would do the most to help the community.
As probation Officer Erin Cross explained, Fourmy will spend most, if not all, of his community service hours conducting presentations at county schools about distracted driving as part of the California Highway Patrol’s Smart Start program for new drivers.
Fourmy stood to speak briefly, the only time during his court proceedings he has said more than “yes” or “no” when addressing Adams. He took a deep, shaky breath.
“I can only begin to imagine the pain and suffering I caused this family,” he said. “It’s hard because I know there’s nothing I can do to bring back a life and undo the destruction.”
Deputy District Attorney Von Nguyen asked for confinement time in Juvenile Hall and an increase in community service hours, which Adams agreed to.
Nguyen said that no amount of time reflects what Flores’ life is worth, but she added that consequences are an important part of juvenile rehabilitation.
“He took more care of the 3-foot bong seat-belted in the back seat than operating the vehicle that took a life,” Nguyen said of Fourmy.
She asked for the highest level of supervision but noted that Fourmy has not tested “dirty” for marijuana since the accident.
“Unfortunately, he is surrounded by a situation where marijuana is available,” she said.
Adams said the legal system can seem unfair or uncaring sometimes, and offered his condolences to Flores’ family.
“There are two families here forever changed because of that May 27th event,” he said. “Believe me, the Fourmys will be dealing with this the rest of their lives.”
Adams noted that Fourmy was well-dressed and well-spoken in court, but he said he had to wonder what was going on in his life back in 2010.
He then discussed Fourmy’s past — including previous referrals to the juvenile justice system and disciplinary incidents in high school — and his present. Fourmy now works full time and attends SBCC.
Adams went into great detail but, when Saatjian brought that to his attention after the hearing, he called this Noozhawk reporter and a Santa Barbara News-Press reporter before the bench and ordered that the criminal records disclosed during Fourmy’s hearing not be made public.
Juvenile records are confidential, but Adams said he “continued to plow into it anyway” to demonstrate to Fourmy that the court was aware of his past. He meant not to shine a spotlight on it but not to ignore it, either, he added.
Adams said he did consider Fourmy’s prior experiences with the juvenile justice system when making his sentencing decisions, but thought it was “not appropriate to go into it.”
Adams sentenced Fourmy to 45 days of custody in Juvenile Hall, 400 hours of community service supervised by the Probation Department, a one-year driver’s license suspension and random drug testing.
Fourmy was taken into custody immediately following Monday’s hearing and Adams took some time to speak to the victim’s family.
Adams apparently talked about loss in his own life and how he moved forward, but did not talk about Flores’ case, which prompted Garcia and Ortega to leave.
“He lost his wife and found another,” Ortega told Noozhawk. “It had nothing to do with the case.
“Florinda’s daughter will never have another mother.”
It was painful to speak in front of the court, Garcia said, and he felt that anything he could say or do wouldn’t matter.
“Where is the justice for Florinda?” she asked. “She has no rights because she died?”
Schulz and Garcia both said the family must go on with their lives, but they are troubled by the many unanswered questions from that fateful morning. Without a trial, the details of the collision and the events that preceded it are still a mystery, one they hope will be solved in the course of the wrongful-death civil lawsuit filed against Fourmy and his parents, Susan Granziera and Patrick Fourmy. The elder Fourmy owns the Compassion Center, a medical marijuana dispensary in Santa Barbara.
“It doesn’t matter what the sentence is, it doesn’t bring my wife back,” Schulz said.
Schulz said he has felt all along that there is more to the story than what Fourmy has disclosed. Fourmy told authorities at the scene that the minivan had steering and braking problems at the time and, although Santa Barbara police completed a mechanical inspection of the vehicle, the vehicle was later destroyed by mistake.
The 1995 Toyota Previa minivan Fourmy was driving figures prominently in the civil case, as well. The vehicle was mistakenly sold by Smitty’s Towing and destroyed, which Fourmy and his parents argue left them without a full defense for the wrongful-death lawsuit. They have all filed cross-complaints against Smitty’s Towing.