Prosecutors have decided not to file criminal charges against a truck driver who hit and killed a Boyle Heights woman in December, saying it would be difficult to get a conviction.
Authorities say that on Dec. 21 Daniel Rico struck Cynthia Szukala on the 3700 block of Union Pacific Avenue as he drove his 18-wheel truck, then continued on his way. He is not accused of intentionally running over the woman, but it is a crime to hit someone with a vehicle and not stop to call for or provide help.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said it would be difficult to prove Rico knew he ran over the woman and purposefully chose to not help.
Rico claimed he was unaware he hit 69-year-old Szukala. The truck driver said it wasn’t until days later after the incident that he found out police were looking for him and he contacted the authorities to talk. The Times reported Rico said he was backing up, angling the truck to enter a business. That’s reportedly when the right side of his tractor ran over Szukala.
There was a witness who contradicted Rico’s claim that he was unaware he hit Szukala, but that witness was drunk when he first reported his account of what happened, changed his story once sober, and has a criminal record that would make cross examination in court a hard battle. Surveillance footage of the area also shows an incomplete and fuzzy picture of what happened and does not contradict Rico’s story.
Szukala’s brother, Carl John Arellano, told the Times that it is unbelievable to think the driver would not feel he hit the woman. Szukala was a well known resident in the industrial sector of Boyle Heights where the accident took place and was endearingly known to others as “Granny.”