In the summer of August 2012, then 74-year old Solomon Mathenge of Lawndale in California, was driving north on Highland Avenue across Willoughby Avenue at 7:20 a.m. when he veered into oncoming traffic and hit a minivan carrying 27-year-old Saida Juana Mendez-Bernardino of Los Angeles and her daughters, Stephanie Cruz, 4, and Hilda Cruz, 6.
Mendez-Bernardino had been driving her oldest daughter to school. She died at the scene. The girls died a short time later at a hospital.
Mathenge, who was driving an Infiniti, was taken to a hospital in critical condition. He was later with vehicular manslaughter. He denied the charges saying that his brakes failed. A few weeks ago after going after an arduous court case, Mathenge has been exonerated.
“The nightmare is over,” Solomon Mathenge told NBC.
Mathenge says he has been living his nightmare since and notes that a part of him died that morning too.
Mathenge says he ‘feels very bad about the family who lost their family in that accident, and that there is nothing he can take back.’
The deceased family’s relatives also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against him. But Methenge had always maintained it wasn’t his fault. He put the blame on his car’s brakes.
“I tried to avoid not hitting them because the brakes weren’t working,” Methenge said. “They went all the way to the floor.”
For four years, he fought to clear his name and on Monday morning, the charges were finally dropped.
“We simply cannot prove that Mr. Methenge committed a criminal act beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Deputy District Attorney George Castello in court.
The judge announced Methenge was exonerated, his charges cleared, and he was free to go.