An estimated 30 family members and friends of Sandra Duran attended the court appearance of Estuardo Alvarado, the man arrested for the death of the 42-year- old Arleta mother of two sons.
Rodrigo Macias, Duran’s fiance wore a button with her photo. He, along with Duran’s father and other close family members, went to the San Fernando Courthouse early Tuesday morning, March 14, to make their presence and concern known and to see Alvarado for themselves — the man they said had taken the life of their loved one and “forever changed their lives.”
Alvarado was arrested on Feb. 19, after his car plowed into the car driven by Duran near the corner of Sepulveda Boulevard and Plummer Street in North Hills. Alvarado — suspected of driving under the influence — was, according to police, speeding on rain slicked streets fleeing another crash he had just been involved in. Alvarado is also reported to be in this country illegally.
Getting a look at Alvarado at the preliminary hearing defined the outrage and great loss Duran’s family has been feeling since her death.
“I’m very angry,” said Macias. “I think we all feel it could have been prevented. What went through my mind was he shouldn’t have been here from the beginning. We shouldn’t be harboring illegal immigrants here in the city of LA,” Macias said.
In court, Alvarado, 45 — in a blue prison jumpsuit — sat quietly while the date for a return to court was set for April 18. Bail was set at $2.18 million. Alvarado faces felony counts including murder and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.He remains in custody.
Duran died at the scene of the crash. Her eldest son Christian Galban, 18, and his girlfriend Stephanie Garcia were passengers in his mother’s car. Galban was treated and released, while Garcia needed a week of hospitalization to recover from her internal injuries.
Exacerbating tensions surrounding this case is the revelation that Alvarado is an undocumented immigrant with a previous — and lengthy — criminal record that includes other DUI convictions. He has been deported five times, most recently in 2011 according to federal Department of Homeland Security data bases. His record has fueled outrage.
Macias, who spoke during an impromptu press conference outside the courthouse after the arraignment, said he planned to be at every court appearance until the case is resolved.
He said his finance’s tragic death should not have occurred from these circumstances.
“I know California is not for the death penalty, but that would be my first choice. But obviously, we want justice to the full extent of the law.”
He said that the accused “took away everything from us. We feel really, really cheated from our politicians. We feel cheated from our mayor [Eric Garcetti]. Not once has our mayor called, texted or visited us. (LAPD Police) Chief Beck hasn’t visited us. Nobody has. We have a better chance of President (Trump) visiting us than our own mayor and our own chief visiting us. That’s how I feel about it.”
Santos Duran, the victim’s father, at first did not want to speak directly to questions about the impact his daughter’s death might have in the current political climate regarding immigration and the push by the Trump administration to deport large numbers of undocumented immigrants from the USA.
“I just think about my daughter and my family and my daughter. That’s all that matters to me. Whatever anybody wants to say, they say it,” he said.
But there was no hiding his pain over the loss of his daughter.
“That’s my daughter this person took away. One day she’s home, the next day she’s gone. It’s painful, very painful for any parent out there, any dad who has a daughter…of course I want justice. That’s why we’re all here (at the courthouse). [Alvarado] changed our lives,” Santos said.
“My daughter lived with me for 42 years; she never left my house. She said, ‘Dad, I will never leave you, I will always be with you.’ I don’t want something like this to happen to somebody else. That’s why we are out here and asking these questions. I don’t want anybody to go through what I’m going through. It’s painful, very painful, especially the way [the killer] took my daughter’s life. I still think of my daughter coming home. But, now, it’s an empty house. Everybody suffers.”
Santos acknowledged that the vast majority of people who come to work in this country come to better their lives but there are gangsters and some illegals who are, “a different story,”
“The people that have rights here, I don’t have anything against them. They’re trying to make a living, just like me and you.
“Illegals…they have different laws for them. But what upsets me right now is my daughter’s not here. We’re suffering because the laws sometimes…who’s side are they on — ours or theirs? Santos asked.”
“They have to have stronger laws for the citizens.”
He said he was speaking out on behalf of his daughter and wanted justice for her.
“I hope he pays for what he did. Because if this had happened to him, or his family, he’d be out here standing and talking the way I’m talking. That’s the way I look at it. It could have happened to anybody here — anybody. But I’m here now, and I’m saying it the way it is. If it had happened to him — God forbid, but things happen — he would be doing the same thing if he had a daughter like he took from me.”