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Undocumented immigrant sentenced for causing death of toddler

Aaron Santos-Pinzon

An undocumented Mexican national living in Henderson County could serve up to 12 years in prison after being convicted last week of felony death by vehicle and felony hit-and-run causing death, District Attorney R. Andrew Murray announced.

Superior Court Judge Mark Powell on Friday sentenced Aaron Santos-Pinzon, 32, to at least eight years and four months and up to 11 years and nine months in prison, the maximum aggravated sentence possible for each of the two charges.

According to court records and Friday’s sentencing hearing, on Aug. 21, 2021, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol responded at approximately 6 p.m. to a report of a small child being struck by a vehicle and severely injured in the cul-de-sac at 58 Pleasant Court east of Oak Grove Road and south of Crest Road. Upon arriving at the scene of the accident, the troopers discovered that a 3-year-old toddler had been riding her tricycle in the cul-de-sac in front of her house when an individual driving a SUV backed out of a neighboring driveway and tragically struck and killed the toddler. The driver of the SUV, after impacting the child, immediately left the scene.

Troopers were able to obtain statements from witnesses who described the driver and the SUV he was driving. They immediately broadcast a Be On The Lookout (BOLO) alert. A Henderson County sheriff’s deputy spotted and stopped Santos-Pinzon shortly after the BOLO was issued heading south on U.S. 25 near the South Carolina line and handed him over to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

Santos-Pinzon was found to be displaying signs of appreciable impairment with a strong odor of alcohol on his breath, slurred speech, unsteadiness on his feet and glassy eyes, the D.A. said. Santos-Pinzon admitted previously drinking alcoholic beverages. He was transported to the county intake center where he was administered a standard breathalyzer test. Santos-Pinzon blew a .10 on the breathalyzer test, above the legal limit to drive in North Carolina of .08. The defendant was arrested for felony death by vehicle, felony hit-and-run causing death and driving while impaired.

Santos-Pinzon was determined to be a citizen of Mexico living here illegally. He remained in the custody at the Henderson County jail until receiving his prison sentence on Friday. Santos-Pinzon has an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer on him and will presumably be repatriated to his country of origin upon completion of his North Carolina sentence, Murray said in a news release.