Conviction tossed for Oregon teen who killed girls playing in leaf pile

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the conviction of the driver who ran over and killed two Forest Grove girls who were in a leaf pile in front of their home in 2013.

Anna Eckhardt and Abby Robinson (Courtesy photo/KOIN)

On Oct. 20, 2013, Cinthya Garcia-Cisneros drove an SUV through a pile of leaves in the street that 11-year-old Abigail Robinson and 6-year-old Anna Dieter-Eckerdt were playing under, directly in front of their Forest Grove home. Anna died at the scene and her sister passed away the following day.

Garcia-Cisneros and her other passengers told investigators they heard a bump but did not realize they had struck anyone until later. However, they did not return to the scene nor turn themselves in to police when they discovered what had happened.

A tip led investigators to the then-19-year-old, who was arrested two days later.

She was found guilty in the hit-and-run but did not receive any further jail time. She received formal probation and 250 hours of community service and was ordered to go through a legal immigration process first because she is in the U.S. illegally.

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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Cinthya Garcia-Cisneros was released on Aug. 14, 2014. She had been placed in removal proceedings and was held at the detention center in Tacoma for about 7 months.

On May 3, 2017, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled Garcia-Cisneros had no reason to know the girls were playing in the leaf pile when she drove through it.

The court said Oregon law does not require a driver to return to the scene if they learn later that someone was hurt or killed.

In a statement, Washington County prosecutor Bracken McKey said the Court of Appeals ruling in this case is misguided when ruling Garcia-Cisneros had no responsibility to return to the scene:

…In this case it was less than a block away and less than five minutes later, when the defendant learned that she had seriously injured and possibly killed two little girls. Justice Egan’s opinion states that the defendant had no responsibility to return to the scene, provide aid, call 911, give a statement to the police, or do any of the things that the judge and jury unanimously found the defendant was required to do. …”

McKey said they’re not able to re-prosecute the case because this ruling concluded Garcia-Cisneros’ “conduct was not criminal as a matter of law…I am deeply saddened for the victims and their family.”

Family reaction

The girls’ mother, Susan Dieter-Robinson, said Wednesday she feels like she was punched in the gut. Though she wasn’t ready to do a full interview, she said she and her husband Tom are extremely sad and confused about the Appeals Court’s decision.

In a statement, she said:

We are extremely sad and very confused about today’s decision. It’s about doing what is right; in our eyes Cinthya has continued to make choices to avoid the consequences for her behavior since the night our daughters went to Heaven. While the letter of the law needs to be determined, it is clear that 12 reasonable people agreed with the intent of the law and we have to ask that the letter of the law can be clarified. We will continue to honor our girls by not letting today’s disappointment turn into anger or bitterness ~ today that is a little hard to do but tomorrow is another day.”

‘I forgive you’

Cinthya Garcia-Cisneros (KOIN)

At her sentencing on Jan. 31, 2014, Susan Dieter-Robinson, acknowledged the crash as “an accident.” She said she forgives Cisneros and did not want her to spend any more time in jail.

“I too have a choice to make,” Robinson said through tears. “I can live the rest of my life full of anger and resentment towards you. Or, I can choose to forgive you.”

“I forgive you, I do. There are consequences to our behaviors. That’s what we taught our girls.”

Cisneros, who was notably emotional throughout the hearing, offered an apology to the victims’ family.

“There are no words that I can give you guys to let you know how bad I feel,” a sobbing Cisneros said.

“I can’t imagine your pain or what you guys are going through. I’m truly sorry that I cost you guys all of this… You said you forgive me, I really hope that you do.”

“Thank you for saying you’re sorry,” Robinson replied.

Organ donations

The girls’ parents asked if they would be good candidates for organ donations, and the answer was yes.

Today, Abigail’s kidneys are sustaining two lives. A young boy received her liver and a child in the Pacific Northwest is able to see through her cornea.

Love Rocks

In the years since Anna and Abby’s deaths, Susan Dieter-Robinson has turned her grief to action.

She began making Love Rocks, honoring what Anna and Abby did for when they became a blended family in 2011. They decorated rocks with hearts for wedding guests.

Her Facebook page taught people how to make Love Rocks and she’s since received notes from all over the world where people have placed and found Love Rocks.

Love Rocks seem to inspire laughter and joy, and kids like to make them.

They’re also working to transform a Forest Grove neighborhood park into Anna and Abby’s Yard.

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