BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Todd Farnsworth said his family forever changed five years ago when a drunken driver crashed into his daughter’s car as she drove to RiverLakes Community Church.
Jourdan Farnsworth suffered permanent injuries in the collision. She requires 24-hour care.
Farnsworth told Superior Court Judge Judith K. Dulcich on Wednesday his daughter receives nutrients and medicine through a feeding tube because she’s still learning how to swallow. He and his wife massage her daily so her muscles won’t stop working. They change her 15 times a day.
The actions of the other driver, Esteban Valdez Gutierrez, have forever impacted his family.
“This is the result of one person’s selfish, irresponsible decision,” Farnsworth said.
Now, Farnsworth said, it’s time for the “coward” Gutierrez — who fled the country last year and was captured last month — to have his life impacted.
Minutes later, it was. Gutierrez, 39, was sentenced to 12 years and eight months in prison.
Gutierrez, in a brief statement to the family, said he’s sorry about what happened to Jourdan Farnsworth but denied being the driver.
Todd Farnsworth said he knows that’s not the case.
“When he said he was sorry I was beginning to feel the little heart tug and go ‘Yeah, you know what,” but then when he just flat denied being the driver, I know that’s not the case,” he said. “I know he was driving. I’ve talked with people who said that he was behind the wheel.”
Despite Gutierrez refusing to take responsibility, Todd Farnsworth said he has forgiven him.
“That wasn’t easy,” he said.
The morning of Dec. 1, 2016, Gutierrez ran a red light as he drove south on Calloway Drive, prosecutors said. He broadsided Jourdan Farnsworth’s car as she turned into the parking lot of RiverLakes Community Church, where she was headed to lead a Bible study class, according to prosecutors and court filings.
Gutierrez ran and was arrested shortly afterward.
Jourdan Farnsworth, 23 at the time, spent days in a coma. She remains in a vegetative state.
Gutierrez later posted bail and was released.
He pleaded no contest to DUI and hit-and-run charges, but fled before his May 28, 2020, sentencing hearing. A no contest plea is treated as a conviction by the court.
The U.S. Marshals Service arrested Gutierrez last month in Mexico and returned him to Kern County to finally face sentencing.
Todd Farnsworth expressed gratitude to law enforcement for nabbing Gutierrez and bringing some justice to his family.
“Thank you for each moment spent in harm’s way away from your families as your tracked this coward down,” Todd Farnsworth said in court. “God bless you and your families.”
Gutierrez is due back in court next week on a felony charge filed after he failed to appear for his initial sentencing hearing.