NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (Feb. 8, 2022) – The suspect in a 2015 drunk driving crash that seriously injured a New Philadelphia couple is heading to prison and could face further prosecution for re-entering the country illegally.
41-year-old Cruz Hernandez-Hernandez pleaded guilty to counts of aggravated vehicular assault, OVI, and identity theft when he appeared in Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court Monday. Judge Elizabeth Thomakos proceeded to punish him for the crimes, ordering the four and a half year prison stay the prosecution recommended.
“Six Christmases have gone by without justice for this family, without some resolution, so finality, some justice, peace, and that’s really difficult for everybody… I wish I had the power to turn back the clock and address this when it happened because the passage of time changes so many things about it.”
Frances Taralla broke several vertebrae in the crash on North Tuscarawas Avenue where Hernandez went left of center striking the truck. She was told she might never walk again, although she’s now able to get around using a cane. She told the judge she had no ill will toward Hernandez.
“My husband did forgive him. For the longest time, he didn’t but he did forgive him, and I forgive him. I pray for him and his family every night. I think his family has got the worst of it because they’re not going to have him for a while.”
Taralla’s husband and passenger Joseph survived his injuries but passed away from unrelated issues last year. Hernandez apologized through his translator for the suffering he caused the Tarallas and their family, saying he wished he could take it all back.
An identity theft complaint out of New Mexico last summer led Strasburg Police to Hernandez. His prints matched those of the fugitive crash suspect and Roberto Lopez, the man who was charged and deported for a deadly crash in Dover more than two decades ago. Assistant Prosecutor Fred Scott says Immigration could send Hernandez to federal prison or deport him again once he completes his sentence.