Cathryn Cooper and Charles Gillette both stood before Maria Elena Gomez Monday and asked her the same question.
Why did she hit their 13-year-old son and flee the scene without calling for help for the dying boy?
Gomez, 28, didn’t provide any answers. The crying woman simply said she was sorry for her actions that night back in September 2010.
Pima County Superior Court Judge Howard Fell then sentenced Gomez to five years’ probation and 180 days in jail.
Anthony J. Gillette ran away from a group home and was struck by a dark-colored Jeep SUV that was heading south on Interstate 19 near Irvington Road around 9:40 p.m. on Sept. 5, 2010.
The driver of the Jeep, described as a woman in her 30s, initially stopped her vehicle and checked on Gillette but drove off, DPS said.
One week later, DPS seized a Jeep Cherokee from a home in the 7100 block of South Haskins Drive after an anonymous 911 caller reported it to authorities Tuesday, according to the search warrant affidavit filed in Superior Court.
The caller told police the vehicle had front-end damage and was parked in a way to conceal the damage.
Investigators were able to match pieces of the vehicle found at the crash scene to the vehicle found at the home, the document said.
Seventeen months later, Gomez was indicted on a single count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. She pleaded guilty to the same in late September and was facing up to 8.75 years in prison.
Cooper and Charles Gillette asked Fell to sentence Gomez to the maximum sentence to give her time to think about her actions.
After identifying her son’s body through pictures, Cooper said it felt as through her “body, spirit and soul were dying.” She still misses him so much it hurts, Cooper said.
Charles Gillette told Gomez his son had never seen the ocean or experienced much else of life when she killed him. She purposely chose to protect herself that night and he can’t think of anything more selfish, he said.
Deputy Pima County Attorney O.J. Flores told Fell he, too, believed the maximum sentence was appropriate given her actions that night and a past criminal history.
Assistant Pima County Public Defender Vladimir Novokshchenov, however, said prison wasn’t an appropriate sentence. While Gomez did leave the scene, no one is saying she caused the boy’s death, he said.
“I’ve never met someone more emphatic, more remorseful,” Novokshchenov said.
Every time the mother of three had to come to court and see the boy’s family, she would sob, Novokshchenov said.
While in jail, Gomez can participate in work furlough, Fell said. Once released, she will have to perform 300 hours of community service.
According to past Star stories based on CPS documents and interviews with his parents, Anthony Gillette’s life was a hard one.
Over the last 18 months of his life, he and his mother moved at least four times, even passing through Emerge, a shelter for battered women. A steady stream of people passed through their lives and Anthony was infatuated with becoming a Crip gang member despite being nearly beaten to death by rival Bloods.
His father was pushing CPS to give him custodial rights, but there were earlier stretches when his father wasn’t involved in his life at all.
The boy once sold his mother's TV and to teach him a lesson, she attempted to kill herself. He found her passed out on the floor surrounded by pill bottles.
After that, the teenager ended up in CPS custody.
The agency placed him in a group home, staff members dropped him off at school one day, and he never came back.
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org