Catalina Colon-Vega was killed on Sept. 20, 2011, when an SUV struck her as she was walking in the 500 block of Roosevelt Avenue in York City.
Catalina Colon-Vega was killed on Sept. 20, 2011, when an SUV struck her as she was walking in the 500 block of Roosevelt Avenue in York City. (Courtesy of Juanita Marrero)

Catalina Colon-Vega's daughters said the 67-year-old was on her way to Bible study at her Kingdom Hall "to share a message of hope" when she was struck and killed by an out-of-control SUV in York City.

The woman behind the wheel, Justina Maggie Miller, was driving without a license while high on marijuana, according to York City Police.

At her sentencing hearing Wednesday afternoon the 29-year-old Miller denied she was actually high when she hit Colon-Vega at 8:33 a.m. Sept. 20, 2011, in the 500 block of Roosevelt Avenue.

She hung her head throughout much of the hearing and gave a brief, tearful statement before being sentenced.

"I am totally, totally sorry for the accident," she said.

Justina Maggie Miller
Justina Maggie Miller

Miller said she lost control of the Dodge Durango she was driving and never meant to hurt Colon-Vega, who lived in the 600 block of Madison Avenue.

Prayed: "I dropped down to my knees (at the scene) and prayed she'd survive," Miller said.

Common Pleas Judge John S. Kennedy sentenced Miller, of the first block of South Hartley Street, to 3-1/2 to seven years in state prison and ordered her to pay $1,200 in fines.

He noted perhaps the incident wouldn't have happened if Miller had ever sought to get properly licensed to drive, which would have included passing a written test and a driving test.

On Sept. 18, she pleaded no contest to homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, causing an accident involving death while not properly licensed, DUI and driving with a suspended license.

No contest: Miller pleaded no contest rather than guilty because she doesn't believe she was under the influence of marijuana when the crash happened, defense attorney Mike Rutt confirmed.

Defendants who plead no contest aren't admitting guilt. A no-contest plea has the same effect as a guilty plea.

Chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker reminded the judge that between 2007 and 2010, Miller had been cited for driving without a license and driving with a suspended license.

She also has substance-abuse issues that appear significant, he said.

Rutt pointed out that his client wasn't speeding at the time of the crash.

"She is sincerely remorseful," he later told The York Dispatch. "But obviously that's not a consolation to the (victim's) family."

Daughters: Colon-Vega's three daughters spoke at Wednesday's sentencing hearing.

They said their mother was a devoted Jehovah's Witness who spent about 70 hours a month sharing her faith with others.

She taught Bible study classes and tried to spread a message of hope, they said.

"She was a great counselor and an example to all," oldest daughter Juanita Marrero said. "She was so full of love."

About 400 people attended Colon-Vega's funeral, according to Marrero, who spoke about the "unbearable sadness and grief" her family now endures.

"This is what misconduct and disdain of the law causes," she said.

Did she suffer? Middle child Maria Maldonado said she's horrified by the thought their mother might have suffered in the moments after the crash.

"I miss my mom's smile, her counsel," Maldonado said. "We were very close."

Youngest daughter Dialis Bosch recalled speaking with her mother two or three times every day and said she had "overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and sadness."

Colon-Vega was orphaned at age 3, married and had children young, and by age 35 was a divorcee single-handedly raising her three daughters, Bosch said.

"She was a voice of comfort and reason," Bosch said. "She was a delight and a breath of fresh air."

The crash: Police said Miller was westbound on Madison Avenue, turned left onto Roosevelt Avenue, lost control and went up on the sidewalk.

Colon-Vega was standing on the sidewalk and was struck.

The SUV went through the front yard of 536 Roosevelt Ave., through hedges and into the yard of 518 Roosevelt. It then went back over the sidewalk, completely crossed Roosevelt Avenue and crashed into a utility pole at the Linden Avenue intersection.

-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at levans@yorkdispatch.com.