CONTENT WARNING: This post deals with suicide and may be triggering for some readers. Please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 if you’re struggling with symptoms of mental illness.
“I still struggle with the ‘Why?’… I still replay it in my head.”
Eighteen years ago, Beverley Hills 90210 actress Rebecca Gayheart was driving through LA one afternoon in a friend’s Jeep Cherokee when she struck nine-year-old boy Jorge Cruz Jr. as he crossed the road on his way home from school.
According to reports, he was jaywalking, and while the cars in front of Gayheart's had stopped to let him pass, she, not seeing him, had swerved into the left lane.
Cruz Jr. died in hospital the following day.
Police interviewed Gayheart at the scene of the accident, but she was not arrested as she was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In court months later, Gayheart pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter. She was sentenced to probation, had her license suspended for one year, was fined US$2,800, and underwent 750 hours of community service.
Outside the courtroom, her lawyer told reporters, "It was the worst thing that could ever have happened to her, killing a child... She feels terrible," according to the LA Times.
Gayheart paid Cruz's family US$10,000 for funeral expenses and offered to pay for grief counselling. She later privately settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by his parents which cited her negligence as the reason for their son's death.