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Trial For Driver Accused Of Killing UM Students To Resume Wednesday

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The trial for the driver accused of hitting two University of Miami students from China recessed Tuesday.

The trial is expected to resume Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. The judge said he will enter a verdict tomorrow after closings.

In opening statements, Assistant State Attorney Elizabeth Jimenez said motorist Milady Pequeno wasn’t watching the roadway last October when she struck and killed the two UM students from China.

Ying Chen, 27, and Hau Liu, 26, were working on doctoral degrees in engineering. They were crossing Kendall Drive at an intersection just east of Dixie Highway at about 8 p.m. on October 16th, when Pequeno’s Porsche hit them.

Pequeno is facing only two simple traffic violations, careless driving, that would carry no criminal penalties if she is convicted.

Prosecutors have only one eyewitness to the crash, who they said will testify Pequeno made no attempt to stop before hitting the students.

Defense attorney Angel Ruiz called the tragedy an accident.

“This was an accident that was unavoidable, it just happened,” Ruiz told Judge William Altfield. “They just jumped in front of her car.

Traffic homicide investigator George Wilhelm testified evidence showed Pequeno was not speeding, but that there were no “skid marks” or other evidence that she made an effort to stop.

“Had she been looking forward, or paying attention, she would have time to stop and not hit them,” argued prosecutor Jimenez. The state says Pequeno admitted in a civil deposition to being distracted, talking to her mother at the time of the accident.

Ruiz said Pequeno will take the stand and testify that her view of the pedestrians was screened by an SUV traveling just in front of and beside her, and that the victims darted in front of her, trying to beat the SUV.

While Pequeno is not charged criminally, if she is convicted of the traffic charge it could bolster the civil case brought against her by the victims’ families. Her family reportedly has considerable wealth made in the gas station business. The victims’ families are not in court, but several friends of the students who were killed are observing the trial.

“We want to be here to support the family,” said Kai Zang. Zang said the victims’ friends and families are disappointed Pequeno was not charged with a criminal offense.

“Two beautiful people are dead,” Zang said.

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