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Couple pleads no contest in fatal USC crash

March 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The husband and wife suspects involved in a hit-and-run crash that killed a USC student and seriously injured another plead no contest to all charges Thursday.

Claudia Cabrera, 31, and Josue Luna, 33, entered their pleas as the jury selection process for the felony hit-and-run was about to commence. Cabrera, the driver of the vehicle, also pleaded no contest to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.

The open plea means that no sentence was negotiated and the couple faces the maximum penalty at sentencing. Luna could face up to seven years in prison and Cabrera faces up to eight years.

Authorities say that Cabrera was behind the wheel of the car that struck and claimed the life of 18-year-old Adrianna Bachan as she crossed Jefferson Boulevard near Hoover Street on March 29, 2009.

Another student, 19-year-old Marcus Garfinkle, was also struck and carried approximately 300 feet down the street atop the hood of the car. After pushing Garfinkle off the car, the couple fled the scene. Garfinkle survived the crash.

Police say that at the time of the incident, Cabrera was driving with a suspended license for unpaid traffic tickets. The couple also had their 7-month-old son in the back of the car.

After an intensive seach, Cabrera was arrested April 2. Two weeks later, Luna was arrested at the Mexican border.

Adriana's mother Carmen, who has been very emotional and vocal about this case in public, said that she was shocked but relieved at the plea deal, but of course will never be satisfied by the potential sentences this couple could now get.

"If your daughter had been killed like that, is eight years enough? Is seven years enough? Or maybe less than that? No. I don't think it is. I think the laws have to be changed," said Bachan.

Bachan believes that Cabrera was driving drunk at the time of the crash, but no tests were done at that time. However, police said that the couple had just left a family function before the crash.

The two are due back in court May 24 for sentencing, with Garfinkle expected to be in attendance.

AP contributed to this report.