Alyssa Villanueva, 26, cries silently behind her attorney in a Fresno County courtroom Monday afternoon. She pled not guilty to six counts including murder, leaving the scene of an accident, driving while intoxicated and driving on a suspended license for a prior DUI conviction. Last Wednesday, CHP officers say Villanueva hit and killed Regan Johnson. The 24-year-old was working on a road construction crew on freeway 99.
“She's devastated. She's very devastated,” said her private defense attorney, Martin Taleisnik.
He also says she’s suffered from being scrutinized by the public. Officers say Villanueva fled the scene of the accident but was arrested later in the day, even after her step-father tried to cover up the evidence.
“She's never benefitted from welfare. She's never done or received anything that she hasn't earned through her hard work. It's tragic for both sides. She is very sorry. Our condolences go out to the Johnson family,” said Taleisnik.
While a large group of Villanueva's family and friends sat in the courtroom, Johnson's family was absent. Her funeral is happening Wednesday in Kingsburg. CBS47's legal analyst says because this case is so sensitive, the defense may take its time.
“You have someone who was tragically killed, very young in life. Then you have on the other side, a defendant with a prior who was on probation at the time of the offense who shouldn't have been driving at all,” said Carl Faller.
Villanueva is scheduled to appear in court again next month. Meanwhile, Johnson’s funeral is Wednesday morning at the Kingsburg Cemetery.