PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Monica Hernandez Benavidez appeared in court for the first time Monday for driving under the influence and causing the death of a woman in Desert Hot Springs on June 5. Her mother is speaking out, saying more could have and should have been done to keep this from happening.
"They let her go, with three drunk driving tickets," said Dahlia Benavidez. "You know, wouldn't you think that she is going to kill someone?"
On June 5, Monica Hernandez Benavidez was under the influence while driving south on Palm Drive near Camino Campanero in Desert Hot Springs.
According to police, she allegedly swerved into the northbound lanes and hit another car head-on. Sixty-five year old Maria Soto Caballero died at the scene. Two other people in the car were seriously injured.
"I want to say I'm sorry, that it was my daughter, but if she has blood on her hands, so does the Cathedral City Police Department," said Benavidez.
Cathedral City police arrested Benavidez for DUI in 2006, 2011 and 2013. Monday, she pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, two felony charges of DUI causing injury and a misdemeanor count of driving with a suspended license. Her mother says the police department and the justice system should have locked her up before this could happen again. She says she tried to step in, but her daughter recently filed a restraining order against her.
"My daughter is not this murderer they call her now, she's not," said Benavidez. "She has a disease, she's sick."
Dahlia Benavidez agrees her daughter needs to be punished. She just hopes others will learn from her mistake and wants more to be done to keep multiple offenders from getting behind the wheel.
"Like my daughter, there's a lot of kids out there doing the same thing and if they don't get stopped, there's a lot of people out there who are going to killed too," said Benavidez. "And that's a shame."
Benavidez is being held on $1 million bail. She is due back in court on July 2 for a felony settlement conference.
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