Suspect in hit-and-run death of 16-year-old girl was blackout drunk


A woman accused in a hit-and-run crash in Palm Springs that killed a Desert Hot Springs teenager nearly a year ago allegedly drank so much that night that she blacked out and did not notice the damage to her vehicle until the next morning, according to a court document obtained today.

Heather Marie Brents, 30, is free on bail while awaiting a June court date, as is her father, who is accused of being an accessory.

Brents and Russell Ted Stienecker, 69, both of Desert Hot Springs, surrendered at the Riverside County Superior Court in Indio on Monday and later posted $5,000 bail each.

Arrest warrants were issued for both defendants last Wednesday in connection with the May 21, 2012, crash that killed 16-year-old Zia Hoyos, according to Palm Springs police Sgt. Harvey Reed.

Someone reported a dead female on North Gene Autry Trail, north of East Via Escuela, about 1:35 a.m. on May 21, 2012. The girl was found lying across the two northbound lanes, about 200 yards north of the intersection of Gene Autry and East Via Escuela.

According to a declaration filed by Palm Springs police Officer Stephen Woodward in support of an arrest warrant, Brents "drank herself to blackout" while celebrating with friends that night. She dropped off her friends, then allegedly struck and killed the pedestrian on Gene Autry on her way home.

She stopped several hundred feet down the road, didn't see anything because it was dark and went home, according to the declaration. Later that morning, she noticed damage to the front of her vehicle, and panicked when she saw news reports about Hoyos' death, Woodward wrote.

Officer Eric Goya wrote in another declaration that Brents told her father, the registered owner of the Toyota Tacoma pickup truck she was driving that night, that "she believed she was responsible for killing the girl on the news."

Stienecker removed the truck's damaged front grille and covered the vehicle with a tarp, Goya alleged.

Neither called police, according to the officers. A friend of Brents told police a few weeks after the crash that one of her friends may have struck the girl, according to Woodward, who said Brents later told investigators that she remembered hitting something.

Police found a piece of a Toyota Tacoma at the scene where the victim was struck, and other pieces in the road that matched a piece found in the vehicle's backseat, according to Woodward.

The arrest warrants were a culmination of the investigation that started when the girl was found, Reed said.

"The Palm Springs Police Department would like to thank the public for their assistance in providing possible tips and leads during the course of the investigation," Reed said last week.

Brents is charged with a felony count of hit-and-run resulting in death or injury and Stienecker faces a felony count of being an accessory, according to court records. Both suspects are scheduled to be arraigned on June 6 at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

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