Two families spent an emotional day in court Tuesday during the arraignment for a man accused of plowing his car into the side of a building and killing a teenager while she lay asleep in her bed.
Roberto Rodriguez, 20, pleaded not guilty in a LA Superior Courthouse in Lancaster to four charges, including murder and manslaughter in connection with the death of Palmdale teen Giselle Mendoza.
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Family members joined Rodriguez in court as Judge Richard Naranjo raised his bail to $1 million and told him the only way the public would be safe was if he was in custody.
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Mendoza was asleep in her family’s Palmdale home near Avenue R and 10th Street Easter morning when an SUV driven by Rodriguez, who was allegedly under the influence of alcohol, crashed into her bedroom. She likely died on impact, officials said.
The 16-year-old’s family and friends attended Tuesday’s arraignment wearing white T-shirts with a black-and-white photo of Mendoza printed on the front of them.
“I wanted to be here to support her and her family, to show that I care and that I’m not forgetting her,” said Brittnie Lopez, a friend of Mendoza.
Community activist Miguel Coronado said Mendoza’s death was a loss for both families.
“It’s mother and mother,” he said. “On the one hand, you’re having to bury your 16-year-old daughter, and on the other hand, you’re having your son, 20-year-old kid, spend 20 years to the rest of his life in prison.”
Rodriguez was arrested shortly after the crash on April 20 and released later in the evening on $100,000 bail. At the time of his release, he told NBC4, “Sincerely, I’m sorry. It wasn’t my intention. Just, I'm sorry."
He is due back in court April 23 for a bail hearing.