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Driver in hit-and-run that killed GCU student sentenced to six years in prison

Taylor White.jpg
Posted at 5:39 AM, Mar 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-26 16:00:43-04

PHOENIX — The driver involved in a hit-and-run crash that killed a Grand Canyon University student four years ago was sentenced to six years in prison Friday.

According to police, Taylor White was jogging in April of 2018 and stepped into the crosswalk when the light turned green near 31st Avenue and Camelback Road. Witnesses told police an SUV ran the red light, striking and killing White.

It took Phoenix police three years before an arrest was made. They say Adrian Favela was behind the wheel and a woman was in the passenger seat. Favela was booked into jail initially on second-degree murder charges, among other felony charges. Those charges were brought down to one felony count of leaving the scene of a deadly accident.

According to Favela’s plea agreement, he could have been sentenced to up to eight years in prison or probation depending on what the judge decided. A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ultimately sentenced him to six years in prison for leaving the scene of a deadly crash.

Several family members and friends flew into Phoenix to speak at the hearing Friday. Many of them addressed the judge, asking her for justice.

“I will never be able to hug my huge firstborn son again, he will never flop down on the couch and say mom rub my hair," said Angela White, his mother.

“All because of one selfish and careless disregard of basic law, I am forced to live without my big brother," said Brittney White.

Taylor White was an aspiring professional athletic trainer who loved adventures and making people laugh.

“I think of the life he didn’t get to live because of a selfish person and a selfish act," said Billy Gable, his longtime wrestling coach.

After the sentencing, the family said they felt relief, but the pain of losing Taylor will never go away.

"We're never getting Taylor back. Six years from today and five years if he has good behavior, he's back with his family. We're without Taylor forever," said Nate White, Taylor's father.

"We're very grateful that the judge acknowledged the remorse now doesn't show that he had remorse before," said Angela White.

Favela spoke at his hearing Friday, saying he was sorry for leaving the scene.

"At the time of the accident, I was worried for my kids and how this would affect them I understand if this is wrong but all I ever wanted to be is a good father," he said. "The most important thing is family and I’m terribly sorry to take a piece of theirs.”

Favela’s wife Barringtina Mathis was in the courtroom as well. She was the passenger in the car and is charged with tampering with evidence and forgery.

White’s family says in order to charge Favela with more severe crimes, like second-degree murder, they would have to prove criminal recklessness which Arizona law defines as a gross deviation from a standard of conduct, like speeding or impairment for example. Because Favela left the scene, the family says they were told it would be difficult to prove he was doing any of those things at the time.

“Right now, the way that the law is stated, if someone is impaired and they leave the scene they’re going to be facing a lesser charge when that impairment can’t be proven,” Angela said. “We want to change that and implement this law for Taylor that you’re no longer rewarded for leaving the scene and letting your intoxication wear off. It’s, we’re going to assume there’s a reason that you ran. We all know there are reasons why people flee the scene, so why are we not holding them accountable for those even when they can’t be proven?”

When asked about why those additional charges against Favela were dropped, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office confirmed it was because of a lack of evidence.

“The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is obligated to follow the law and only prosecutes charges for which it has a reasonable likelihood of conviction,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement. “The defendant has plead guilty to a class 2 felony for leaving the scene of an accident causing a death. There was insufficient evidence to proceed on the other referred charges. The Office complied with victims’ rights laws regarding consultation and discussion with the victims about the resolution of this case.”