A valley family is spending Christmas without a loved one -- killed just last week in a tragic hit and run.
They say the worst part is that the man accused of leaving the 51-year-old mother and grandmother for dead is free on bond.
On Christmas morning, Sarah Maria Junior and her aunt shared an embrace. A few feet away from where they stood is a memorial that honors her mother.
"It's just so hard..I feel like I can't get out of bed, but I know that I gotta be strong so that she can have the perfect funeral that she deserves," said SaraH.
On December 18th, the maroon Saturn Sarah Maria Esparza was driving was struck by a white Dodge Charger. The 51-year-old woman was pronounced dead at the scene.
The suspect, identified as 18-year-old Fidel Ortiz, fled on foot and police later found him hiding at a nearby home.
Family members say her death is senseless. Police confirmed Esparza was wearing a seat belt and preliminary reports indicate Ortiz may have been driving twice the speed limit.
"They said he sped up and she sped up to try to avoid getting hit and he turned his wheel and he hit her so hard that the car ended up right here," said Sarah.
The suspect was booked into the 4th Avenue Jail on a number of charges shortly after being taken into custody. The victim's daughter tells us he was released just a few days later.
"Out of the result of his actions..was death not only that, but he was able to run away from the scene..he's only been in jail..it happened Tuesday..for about three or four days," said Charity Chagolla, the victim's niece.
"This guy is just spending Christmas with his family.." said Sarah, who confirmed Ortiz's release with the Maricopa County Sheriff's office as she prepares to bury the one woman that meant the most to her. She vows to fight for justice.
The family has set up an account to help pay for funeral expenses.
Memorial fund for Sarah Esparza
Bank of America
Account Number: 457020692834
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