Society

Heather Marie Brents Sentenced to 3 Years Probation After Killing 16-Year-Old Zia Hoyos in a Hit-and-Run

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

Heather Marie Brents, 31, was reportedly driving around Palm Springs, California, while "black out drunk" when she struck and killed 16-year-old Zia Hoyos with her vehicle in May of 2012.

According to KESQBrents was charged with a felony hit-and-run, but she received only three years of probation after making a plea bargain. Brents’ father, Russell Ted Steinecker, 70, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for his cover up of the crime and was given a two-year probationary term.

Brents told investigators she remembered hitting something while driving, but was unaware it was a person until she saw the news reports later. Brents damaged the front of her father’s Toyota Tacoma, pieces of which were found at the crime scene, and Steinecker removed the truck’s grille and hid the vehicle under a tarp.

A year after Hoyos was killed, both Brents and Steinecker were arrested.

Since then, Hoyos’ family and her community have been rallying for harsher penalties in hit-and-run cases. They hope to create a ballot measure called “Zia’s Law,” which would change sentencing laws, bail amounts and the statue of limitations for hit-and-run cases. 

Hoyos’ mother, Senta Florez, has started a petition on Change.org to garner support for the measure.

"I want [Brents] to get the max penalty, which is only four years. It's disgraceful. And [Stienecker], three years. I cannot believe he would cover up a death," Florez told KESQ and CBS Local 2.

Hoyos’ aunt, Marie Espejo, echoed the sentiment. "This whole thing is disgusting. What it is, bottom line, is breaking the law and not being accountable for it," she said. “[Brents] didn't stop. She kept going and tried to keep it a secret. For that, give them more time. We're hoping [the petition] gets signed then passed so people in the future who go through this don't have to suffer. It's a horrible feeling.”

So far, the petition has fewer than 900 signatures.

Sources: KESQ and CBS Local 2 / Image via Change.org