Hit-and-run suspect free on bond

Vilma Buchala, 45, has been charged with failure to stop and render aid

March 30, 2010 9:27:32 AM PDT
A female driver bonded out of jail Monday night, just hours after authorities filed charges against her in a hit-and-run accident last week that left a little girl to die. Vilma Buchala, 45, got her fingerprints and mug shot taken just before being free on bond. She is charged with failure to stop and render aid, a felony. Her attorney says she had a good reason to leave the scene, but the problem is what she didn't do afterwards.

Eyewitnesses reported to police that once she hit the child, she stopped, got out of her car and said, "It's not my fault," then drove off.

Since the child for some reason ran into the street, police say the driver would not have faced any charges had she stayed at the scene that night.

A small memorial at Bear Creek Park in west Houston marks the spot where Destiny Garcia, 8, was fatally injured by a passing SUV on March 22. Mothers at the busy park were still talking about how to prevent another death.

"They need to change a lot of things in here," said one mother.

As another mother is charged in the accident.

"She is grieving for the family of this child," said defense attorney Earl Musick.

He represents Buchala, a mother of two boys who Houston police say hit the little girl but didn't stay around to talk to them. It was around 9pm last Monday night and Buchala was on her way to pick up her son at the baseball field when Destiny was struck. Prosecutors say she did get out and spoke to others in the crowd.

"She was told that her SUV just hit her, the little girl, and she said, 'No I didn't hit her.' And that went back and forth several times," said Harris County Prosecutor Catherine Evans. "She denied hitting the girl, but she also identified herself as the driver of the SUV that they knew to of just struck Destiny."

When asked why she would run from the scene, she told investigators she thought someone else was already helping the child.

The next day Buchala called Musick. They called police and surrendered her white SUV. He says she didn't stick around because she feared for her safety as the crowd was growing.

"One of those individuals made a threat that if he finds out who hit that little child, he was going to kill them," said Musick.

But instead of calling police from a safe place that night, Musick admits she didn't call at all.

"That's why she's being charged," Musick said.

Anyone involved in an injury accident is supposed to remain at the scene and make sure the victim is getting treatment. It's the law. Junior Ortiz believes any mother should know better.

"She should have stayed and helped," said Ortiz.

Prosecutors say they have no evidence to believe this was anything but a tragic accident. That's the reason Buchala faces only the one charge. She is out of jail tonight on $5,000 bond and is set to be in court on Wednesday.

If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.


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