Undocumented immigrant sentenced after unborn child dies in accident | News
BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - A judge has convicted an undocumented immigrant from Batesville for killing an unborn child, according to the Independence County circuit clerk's office.
Independence County Circuit Court Judge John Dan Kemp sentenced Ernesto Berdeja, 35, last week to 10 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections and 60 months of a suspended imposition sentence, where he will be monitored under parole.
Berdeja pleaded guilty to negligent homicide after he caused an accident in June that killed his passenger's unborn child.
Berdeja was also charged with driving while intoxicated after the wreck, but the judge dismissed that charge.
"Any time you have a death, especially with a small child, sure, it's something that sticks with you," Lt. Michael Mundy said. "It doesn't mean you handle it any differently. It's something that sticks."
Mundy says he has worked a lot of accidents during his career, but none ever involved an unborn child as a victim until Berdeja's accident.
Around 9:20 p.m. the day of the accident, Mundy says Independence County Sheriff's deputies responded to a motor vehicle accident near the intersection of 22nd and Harrison Streets in Batesville. A Dodge truck had hit a Hyundai Elantra.
"The Elantra had significant damage to the back rear door area as well as the side," Mundy said, "and then the front end of the Dodge had significant damage."
Mundy says Berdeja had pulled in front of the truck with his Hyundai, causing the collision. Berdeja's two female passengers were taken to the White River Medical Center. One of the women was about 31 weeks pregnant and had to undergo an emergency Caesarean section.
"When she was taken to the hospital at that point in time, medical personnel realized that they needed to go ahead and do an emergency C-section," Mundy said. "The emergency C-section was performed, and the child was stillborn."
Doctors determined the child likely died from blunt force trauma.
The other female passenger and the truck's driver were treated for minor injuries and released soon after the accident.
While deputies investigated the scene, Mundy says Berdeja appeared drunk. Officers took him to the Independence County Jail, where a breathalyzer revealed his blood alcohol content was above the legal limit.
Berdeja was charged with DWI, and then investigators had to determine if the unborn baby was a viable life. The prosecutor and medical personnel agreed that it was indeed a viable life because it had almost reached full-term. That brought a second charge for Berdeja of negligent homicide.
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