Thursday, January 22, 2009
The residents of Thainwood Way in southeast San José were tired of being victims of kids having too good a time speeding their cars through their neighborhood, screeching tires well into the night, practicing donuts on the corner.
A 25-year resident of Thainwood Way, 46-year old Donna Fife had had enough of the kids and their irresponsible driving habits. Yes, San José Police Department had been called to the Silver Creek area numerous times, but were unable to enforce any laws because they had not personally viewed the infractions. Neighborhood troublemaker Richard Delgado, age 19, was one of the most egregious offenders, responsible for plenty of skid marks left near Silver Creek Valley and Yerba Buena Roads.
On Monday, January 19 at 11 p.m., Fife heard a crashing sound and went outside to investigate. She found Delgado had crashed a family member’s Lincoln into a neighbor’s fence. Fife rapped on the neighbor’s door and told him, “Richard knocked down your fence, did you know that?”
Delgado was quite notorious in the neighborhood. An admitted Norteño gang member, Delgado does not have a driver’s license but does have a criminal history including theft and reckless driving. In September 2008, he pleaded no contest to driving without a license and reckless driving—he crashed a car over a curb near his grandmother’s house. His jail sentence was suspended.
That didn’t stop him from driving. Delgado, who lived with his grandmother, continued to drive and terrorize the neighborhood in family vehicles, including a black Lincoln and a Honda Civic.
While Fife was at the neighbor’s door, Delgado backed the Lincoln out of the fence, drove the car around the corner, abandoned it and ran home to get another car, the Honda. Fife followed Delgado and was standing in Delgado’s neighbor’s front yard, on the lawn, writing down the license plate number to give to police, when Delgado backed the car out of the driveway (of course leaving a skid mark), then pulled forward over the curb, onto the sidewalk, onto the lawn and running over Fife head-on. According to another neighbor, Delgado ran over Fife’s stomach and face. He then drove off, abandoned that car and took off on foot, where he was shortly apprehended by police responding to the second call.
Donna Fife died on her neighbor’s cold wet lawn in her husband Mark’s arms.
SJPD/911 was called 11:03 p.m., but because at that time was only a damaged property call, with no harm to human life, police response was slow. Police showed up at 11:25 p.m., two minutes after receiving a 911 call regarding the suspect running over the woman with his car.
Delgado’s family claims he’s a “goodhearted person to his family” and was just confused. “I believe he panicked after he hit the fence. He didn’t know what he was doing,” said his aunt, Raquelle Delgado. She said that she knows none of the neighbors likes Richard.
Delgado spent 83 days in jail for the theft of two bicycles at nearby Silver Creek High School. He and a friend used a handsaw to cut through the bikes’ locks and then confronted the owners with an air gun. He applied for a driver’s license last March and May but the license was not issued because he did not fill out the application properly or pay the fees.
In October, he was convicted of throwing trash out of a car window. He failed to appear in court 15 days later, and fined for misdemeanor charges.
Neighbors said Delgado has been an out-of-control pain in the neighborhood’s side since he was a child.
This is a sad case of the police failing to protect a neighborhood, the court system failing to come down hard on a repeat offender (who was no longer a juvenile), an admitted gang member, and most of all, a family who let a male child run amuck well past childhood. Yes, it is hard to control adult children. But Richard Delgado’s family created a self-indulgent monster and helped that monster to thrive and become an expert in creating chaos. It’s fairly easy to keep car keys away from someone; what else is going on in that household?
This is one of these cases that I hope not only ends up in life in prison for the defendant, but also a nice fat civil suit against Delgado and his family—because you are ultimately responsible for whomever drives your car, and the Delgado family acted recklessly by knowingly and repeatedly letting the troubled teen drive without a license. It won’t make the Fife family feel any better, but the Delgado family may take notice of their failure to act and how a decent citizen paid for the Delgado’s indulgence with her life.
Delgado is cooling his jets in the Santa Clara County jail, charged with the murder of Donna Fife. Mark Fife is planning his wife’s funeral.
Unlicensed San Jose driver strikes, kills woman in front yard
San Jose man arrested after neighbor is fatally run down