FARMINGTON Questions about a man's immigration status have delayed a possible plea deal in the hit-and-run death of a 15-year-old Layton girl.
David Romero, 44, appeared in 2nd District Court on Monday for a pre-trial conference. After two hours of delays, Davis County prosecutors announced that Romero intended to plead guilty as charged to leaving the scene of an accident and obstructing justice, both class A misdemeanors.
"He is legally here, but not a citizen," Deputy Davis County Attorney Mike DiReda told the judge. "The issue is, would his pleas impact his ability to remain in the U.S.?"
Chelsea Smith-Peaslee and a cousin were crossing I-15 near the Layton Hills Mall on Dec. 1 when Chelsea was hit by a car. The Utah Highway Patrol said that after hitting her, Romero fled the area failing to stop and call police.
He then cleaned his 2002 Ford Mustang, prosecutors allege, dumped it in a West Valley City field and reported it stolen. Romero was tracked down through a license plate left by the side of the road.
Prosecutors have said that barring any other illegal activity, Romero would likely have not been charged had he stopped. In court, Romero's attorney said his client needed to meet with an immigration attorney to consider the consequences of such a plea.
"We want to make sure he's informed," Shawn Robinson said. "I don't think
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys apologized to Chelsea's family for making them wait nearly three hours only to delay the hearing until Feb. 11. Chelsea's mother, Stephanie Peaslee, called the delay "frustrating."
"Hoping that there will be some justice helps me," she said outside of court.
Peaslee said she still wants to know why he didn't stop.
"I can understand that maybe he was scared and didn't know quite how to deal with it," she said, adding that he should have stopped.
Peaslee said she learned of another woman who witnessed Chelsea's death, but also didn't stop. That woman called 911 and wrote a letter to Chelsea's cousin, telling her what happened.
"She was too scared of what she might see, so she continued to drive,"Peaslee said.