TEXAS CITY — A man sentenced to four years in prison in connection with the death of an 11-year-old girl hit by a big rig he was driving had his bond pending appeal set at $50,000 Thursday.
Hector Pena, 47, was also required to relinquish his passport.
Pena was convicted Wednesday of criminally negligent homicide in connection with the death of Christina Marie Lopez, a sixth-grader who was run over by a truck while waiting at a school bus stop in Texas City in 2012.
Pena was charged with manslaughter but was convicted of the lesser offense by a jury of six men and six women.
Galveston County Assistant District Attorney Bill Reed said prosecutors were happy with the verdict.
He said Lopez’s actions while driving on Sept. 24, 2012, directly caused the death of a young girl. Prosecutors argued that Lopez was late for work and in a rush when his truck struck Lopez.
Pena told investigators he saw Lopez at the bus stop before making a right turn from 30th Avenue North onto 26th Street, but lost sight of her.
“Once he lost sight of her, he could have stopped the car,” Reed said.
Pena’s conviction shows the importance of operating a vehicle safely, Reed said.
“I think potentially it applies to anybody in our county texting while driving, or driving intoxicated or recklessly,” he said.
Pena was eligible for probation, but prosecutors asked the jury to sentence the former truck driver to prison.
The parents of Christina Marie Lopez also made emotional pleas for jurors to sentence Pena to a state penitentiary.
The family decided against reading what prosecutors call “victim impact statements” in court Thursday.
“The Lopezes are happy with the sentence,” Reed said. “Their daughter’s life is worth more than probation.”
Pena’s defense attorneys filed a notice to appeal after his sentencing Wednesday.
Attorney Jeth Jones, who helped represent Pena, said the jury disregarded evidence that showed Pena was not criminally responsible for Lopez’s death.
A defendant sentenced to less than 10 years in a criminal case can remain free on bond until an appeal has been ruled on.