A convicted California thief who did not contest he crashed his SUV into another car and killed a 9-year-old girl in a deadly hit-and-run nearly two years ago was sentenced to six years in state prison last week.
Kevin Lee Payne Jr., 23, wept in front of a courtroom filled with the family and friends of Zayda Monge, the young girl killed in the April 2018 crash.
“I understand the pain I’ve caused,” Payne told the courtroom on March 13, the Mercury News reported.
On April 10, 2018, Payne struck the Toyota Corolla of a 25-year-old woman, who was driving with Monge and two other girls, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Payne hit the woman's car with his Infiniti SUV after the woman made a U-turn. Payne and other passengers in his vehicle fled on foot. Three days after the crash, the 23-year-old turned himself into authorities.
Payne pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter charges, leaving the scene of an accident, and reckless driving with serious injury, on Feb. 14, according to court documents.
"I tried to slam on the brakes but it wasn't good enough,” Payne said in court.
Monge, the collision’s lone fatality, died the day after the wreck. The adult driver and two other children, aged 8 and 10, survived, according to the East Bay Times.
Prior to his surrender, Crime Stoppers and the Oakland Police Department had offered a reward of up to $15,000 for information related to the identity and whereabouts of the suspected hit-and-run driver, KPIX-TV reported.
“[Payne] admitted to being the driver in the collision and fleeing the scene without providing his information,” police officer Timothy De La Vega wrote in an arrest affidavit obtained by the Mercury News.
Video recordings captured Payne speeding in the residential zone when the collision occurred, authorities told the Mercury News. Witnesses also told law enforcement that Payne had crossed into oncoming traffic to pass another vehicle moments before the fatal collision, local media reported.
“Nobody can understand what you went through and the pain and sorrow and heartbreak caused by this event,” Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy told the dead girl’s family on Friday, the Chronicle reported.
Murphy also addressed Payne prior to sentencing the 23-year-old.
"Sometimes simple mistakes have enormous consequences we don't contemplate," the superior court judge said.
The family of Monge described the 9-year-old as a deeply spiritual child and a “beautiful soul.”
“She was just an intelligent, vibrant kid who had great charisma,” the child’s aunt Yesenia Recinos, 27, told the East Bay Times in 2018. “She lit up the room wherever she went.”
The young girl attended the Redwood Christian School in Castro Valley.
“She had a way of lighting up the campus, her classrooms and her friends,” superintendent Al Hearne II wrote in a statement after the 9-year-old’s death. “Zayda was quick to flash her winsome smile, even quicker to ask how she might be of help to her teachers and friends.”
School officials also described her as “dedicated, hardworking, disciplined and full of life” and said she was a “true example of how to share God’s love with others,” the East Bay Times reported.
Following Payne’s booking, Monge’s aunt breathed a sigh of relief then told the local outlet, “Thank God. Justice be served.”
Payne was previously convicted for second-degree commercial burglary, receiving stolen property, and two past assault weapons charges, a number of court records show.
Payne will serve his sentence at San Quentin State Prison.
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