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Family wants tougher penalties after woman was hit and killed crossing the street

Posted at 8:33 PM, Nov 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-30 08:13:24-05

The fight for justice continues one year after a deadly crash killed a Chandler mother while she was walking home from the park with her two children.

Police say Pamela Hesselbacher was killed by a driver who ran a red light while driving on a suspended license last November.

Hesselbacher's two children suffered serious injuries.

Her son, who was three at the time, suffered a broken arm, hip and lacerations. Her 1-year-old daughter was in a coma for three weeks and suffered brain trauma.

Jody Kieran, Hesselbacher's mother, said to this day the driver accused of this crime has not spent a single night in jail. The case has been tossed from the city to the county and now back to the city.

The family has been extremely frustrated with a legal system that they say has been hard to understand.

County prosecutors declined to prosecute the case because it "did not have the evidence necessary to try it as a felony,” according to Kieran.

Chandler police said both driving on a suspended license and running a red light are misdemeanor crimes.

ABC15 did some research and discovered that the suspect in this case, William Epperlein, has a history of bad driving. From DUI's to driving on a suspended license, Epperlein had received multiple traffic citations in the past.

Once county prosecutors declined to prosecute the case, the city filed misdemeanor charges against Epperlein that included three counts of an accident with a serious injury/death and one count of driving on a suspended driver's license.

He appeared in city court with his father on Wednesday afternoon.

The first motion city court Judge Michael Traynor ruled on was allowing cameras in the courtroom to record Wednesday’s proceedings.

Epperlein, who sat alone in one side of the courtroom, said he had an objection to the media coverage as he had been harassed by people at his home and place of work because of the incident.

The family of Pamela Hesselbacher welcomed the media coverage, and in light of no argument made on a legal basis, the judge ruled in favor of allowing cameras in the courtroom.

City prosecutors asked for strict release conditions in this case and requested that the judge set a bond.

Hesselbacher's mother Jody Kieran addressed the judge.

"Mr. Epperlein has a long history of reckless driving and ignoring suspensions. Time and time again the justice system has failed to make Mr. Epperlein accountable for the actions," said Kieran.

She added that had the courts been stricter with Epperlein in the past, her daughter may still be alive today.

"Pamela would have been here to take care of her kids today, and the promise from the text she made to her husband just before they left the park that day, we've finished at the park and we're heading home now, see you in about 15 minutes I love you, that would be fulfilled," said Hesselbacher.

Kieran told the judge that Epperlein needed to see driving as a privilege, not his basic right.

She pleaded with the courts to act strictly this time and take action against him.

"Please consider that he was a danger to not only my family, but he is to others in this community. Suspending his license alone does not seem to make a difference," said Kieran in court.

Epperlein stated that he was not aware his license had been suspended at the time of this crash.

At the end of the hearing, the judge sent a secure bond at $5,000 and Epperlein was taken into custody.

A small glimmer of hope for a family who's been waiting for more than one year to see the legal wheels finally moving in this case.

"It's at least a glimmer that the legal system might start doing what needs to be done to keep this person off the street. He's a repeat offender he's driven before on a suspended license and he's going to do it again,” she pleaded.

She added that it sickened her to know that the maximum fine for the citations Epperlein was receiving were equivalent to what someone would pay for littering near the highway.

"To say that you're just the same as a piece of trash, Is unacceptable, just unacceptable," said Kieran.

She says the family will not consider any plea agreements in this case.  They will push for the maximum amount of jail time possible.

Kieran also stated the fight was not over after court. They planned to lobby the legislature to close loopholes, and change laws to make crimes like this one a felony in the state of Arizona.

Epperlein has been appointed a public defender. A pre-trial hearing has been set for Dec. 7.