Vanessa Carrillo and LayJah Rennee Heath seemingly had nothing in common.
One was a 25-year-old pregnant woman, the other a 6-month-old girl. One was black and one Hispanic.
But within the space of five days last month, the two suddenly shared something sickening.
Both were killed by alleged drunken drivers.
The fatal crashes brought the Carrillo and Heath families unexpectedly together Monday in mourning outside a Kern County courtroom. Both families had just watched the first court appearances of the men accused of killing their loved ones.
Family members of Carrillo cried and hugged the parents of LayJah. The two families had never crossed paths before.
Now they are members of a sad fraternity. Through January the district attorney’s office says there were at least five DUI deaths in Kern County.
In court, Joseph Haskell Maine pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, while the arraignment of Alfredo Moreno was postponed until Tuesday.
Maine, 26, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and other crimes in connection with a Jan. 17 crash that killed the pregnant Carrillo.
Police have said Maine was driving a pickup west on Fairview Road at 12:40 a.m. when he struck a car traveling north on Monitor Street. Carrillo, a passenger in the car, died at the scene.
A coroner’s office news release stated both she and her fetus died of blunt force trauma. The driver and another passenger in the car Carrillo was traveling in suffered minor injuries.
Maine declined comment Monday as he left the courtroom. His next court date is Feb. 18.
In March 2012, Maine was convicted of driving on a suspended license, according to court records. And in 2007 he pleaded no contest to participating in an illegal speed contest, not having insurance and driving an unregistered vehicle.
Rene Aguirre, boyfriend of Carrillo, said he appreciates the community’s support. Those who loved Carrillo are doing their best to get through each day, he said.
In the other case, prosecutors have charged Moreno with first-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit and run causing death or serious permanent injury, and other crimes in connection with the Jan. 22 crash that killed LayJah.
LayJah’s parent’s, Donte and Faith Mozeke Heath, said God is seeing them through this difficult time.
“We don’t hate him. We don’t wish him any bad,” Donte Heath said of Moreno. “We just want justice.”
LayJah died three days after suffering blunt force trauma in a crash at the intersection of South Union Avenue and Berkshire Road. She died at Children’s Hospital of Central California.
Donte Heath urged the public to not drink and drive. He said LayJah’s twin sister will never see her again because of it.
“It’s a nightmare you can’t wake up from,” Faith Heath said.