Tearful mom denies guilt in crash that killed girls

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SAN DIEGO – A 22-year-old mother accused of driving under the influence of alcohol when she crashed her car into Otay Lakes Reservoir causing two girls to die plead not guilty Wednesday.

An emotional Arlene Hernandez faced gross vehicular manslaughter and felony child abuse charges during her arraignment in a Chula Vista courtroom Wednesday.

Authorities said Hernandez was allegedly drunk Sunday around 6:20 p.m. when the Kia Sedona she was driving plunged into the reservoir.  She and her passenger were able to escape the submerged car, but two 5-year-old girls strapped in the backseat died.

One of the victims was Hernandez’s daughter Lesetta Silva. The other was Guiliana Figueroa.

“As you could see in court, Miss Hernandez was very distraught about what happened and about her current situation,” said Hernandez’s attorney Jonathan Jordan.  “At this point, it’s a very traumatic experience not only for her but for a lot of the other people involved.”

Arlene Anna Hernandez

“The child abuse charge is for the defendants conduct by putting her child and this other in child in a situation where they were in danger of great bodily injury and of course that’s what happened here,” Deputy District Attorney Mary Loeb said.

“Blood was drawn after she was arrested and we don’t have those results yet,” Loeb said.

Her attorney said Hernandez’s daughter’s funeral is planned for Saturday but it’s not likely she’ll make it.  Bail is set at $400,000.

“Miss Hernandez is not going to be there so at this point the best thing that everybody can do is allow them to grieve and mourn those children and then we’ll just see how the case is going to shape up,” Jordan said.