SAN DIEGO -- A motorist who drove onto a sidewalk in Tierrasanta and hit two girls -- killing one and seriously injuring the other -- was convicted Wednesday of gross vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run.
After deliberating less than an hour, jurors found that 31-year-old Julianne Little was distracted but was not texting or fatigued when she struck the girls, killing 10-year-old Raquel Rosete.
Little faces 11 years and eight months in prison when she is sentenced Jan. 19.
"I'm very happy for the verdict," Raquel's 21-year-old sister, Jessica, said after the jury's decision was announced. "It's a gift that we got this day. I'm know she's with us in spirit."
Raquel's 12-year-old friend, Mekayla, suffered a broken ankle and concussion when the girls were struck just before 6 p.m. Feb. 20 accident.
Raquel, who had a broken spine and a traumatic brain injury, was placed on life support and died three days later.
In her closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Melissa Vasel said Little knew she hit the girls while driving distracted. Vasel said a number of people stopped to render aid after the crash, but Little drove to her home about two miles away.
Little testified that she didn't know she hit someone, but Vasel told the jury that she had to know because Raquel's body was right in front of her on the windshield when she struck the child. She added that Little couldn't wait to text a man named Rodney after he ignored 18 text messages from her the night before.
Little told police she didn't use her phone after sending a text from the parking lot after getting off work.
Navy Capt. Brian Shipman testified that he was driving north on Santo Road near Shields Street when he saw bobbing headlights in his rear-view mirror and a car re-entering the roadway from the sidewalk.
Shipman said Little pulled up next to his car at a stop light and he got behind her and jotted down her license plate number.
"I knew something bad had probably happened," Shipman testified.
He said he went to a shopping center to pick up dinner, but immediately turned around and drove back to where he saw Little's car leave the roadway.
Shipman said he saw a runner, Amanda Procter, tending to Mekayla and gave a 911 operator a description of Little's Toyota Corolla.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Charles Quirk told the jury that Little was tired and fell asleep while driving home. Once there, she told her father that she had been in an accident and they returned to the scene.
Little thought she had hit a car, Quirk told the jury.
"These are actions of a person who did not know she hit two little girls," her attorney said.
The prosecution was not able to prove whether Little was texting or had just finished texting at the time, Quirk said.
"It's an accident," Quirk told the jury. "She wasn't texting while driving."
A blood test for drugs or alcohol in Little's system came back negative, her attorney said.
Quirk conceded that his client was guilty of vehicular manslaughter, but only with ordinary negligence.