Father of 17-year-old girl killed wants justice

FILE — Roberto Mendez Garcia poses for a portrait with a photo of his 17-year-old daughter, Petrona Mendez Ruiz, on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, in Wapato, Wash. Ruiz was killed in June when a motorist drove into the field where she was working and ran her over. 

A federal trial of a man accused of running over and killing a 17-year-old girl in a field on the Yakama reservation has been rescheduled to Aug. 30.

Joshua Cole Sampson, 35, is accused of killing Petrona Mendez Ruiz as she worked in a field along Progressive Road on June 1, 2019.

He’s been charged in U.S. District Court with involuntary manslaughter, which carries a penalty of up to eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

This is the fourth time the trial has been continued because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trial was initially scheduled for April 6, 2020, then it was moved to Feb. 1, then June 21 and now Aug. 30.

Ruiz was weeding in a field for a local nursery when the driver of a SUV left the roadway and ran her over. Her petite body was crushed by the SUV.

Her father, Roberto Mendez Garcia, was working in a neighboring field when she was crushed. He said the SUV had to be lifted off his daughter’s body.

Responding deputies said the driver of the SUV reeked of alcohol and was arrested at the scene.

The case is being handled by the federal government because Sampson is a tribal member and the incident occurred on the reservation. Federal authorities often handle serious cases on the reservation in which suspects are Native American.

Sampson’s case first went to Yakama Tribal Court, which lacks the authority to prosecute felony crime. Federal authorities later charged him in U.S. District Court.

Garcia came here from Guatemala with his daughter to earn money to send home to family.

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