CHANDLER, AZ - The family of a young Chandler mother killed while crossing the street with her two young children is speaking out, after the Maricopa County attorney's office declined to prosecute the suspect.
Pamela Hesselbacher was just coming home from the park when police say the driver of a pickup truck ran a red light and hit the mother and her two young children.
"She even texted her husband Matt just before she left the park saying we're on our way home. I'll see you soon, I love you," said Jody Kieran, the victim's mother.
Hesselbacher's two children suffered serious injuries. Her son, who was three at the time, suffered a broken arm, hip and lacerations. Her one-year-old daughter was in a coma for three weeks and suffered brain trauma.
"Your heart just stops," Kieran said. "There is no other words for it, just everything stops."
Police said the suspect, William Epperlein, ran a red light and was driving on a suspended license.
"He had a suspended license for two years," Kieran said. "He was required to have high-risk insurance and he had no insurance. He was driving someone else's truck."
For five months Kieran said they did not speak publicly about the case as they did not want to taint a potential jury pool.
"We put a lot of faith in the judicial system. that they would take care of this," Kieran said.
Just this month, the family learned the prosecutor's office would not be prosecuting Epperlein — they were all shocked.
"The act would have to be heinous and severe, was his exact verbiage," Kieran said. "Although he was driving on a suspended license, and he ran a red light, that was not considered heinous enough for them to prosecute him. It was like getting punched in the gut all over again."
She said the family felt re-victimized by the justice system they had put their hopes in.
"If Audrey and Ryan would've been killed along with their mother, would that be heinous enough for them to prosecute this case? We were told no," Kieran said.
She was told it was just a misdemeanor crime unless he had been racing or texting while driving and there was no evidence to prove that.
ABC15 Arizona reached out to the county attorney's office for a comment. A spokeswoman sent us a statement saying:
There was insufficient evidence to support the felony charges and the matter was sent to the city for possible misdemeanor charges.
Kieran said she was told she could file a civil suit against Epperlein, but she said he worked part time at Fry's and felt there was no point suing someone with no assets. She had hoped to see him behind bars.
"I really assumed that if someone killed someone while driving, they were going to jail," Kieran said. "There was no question in my mind, and to find out that's not the case, other people need to know this too."
She also questioned why police did not test his blood after the accident. An officer told her he had passed an "eye test" and they did not feel he was under the influence of any substance.
"My daughter was blood tested in the morgue. She didn't give her consent, but they didn't blood test him," Kieran said.
Prosecutors said they were returning the case back to the city court for possible misdemeanor charges.
Her grieving mother takes solace knowing that Pamela Hesselbacher's heart keeps beating today, as she was an organ donor.
She worked at General Mills and was very passionate about helping the families of children who had cancer.
General Mills has re-named their annual event to help support and benefit these families as "Pamela's Picnic for Hope." The event will take place this Saturday in her honor.