Driver sentenced to 10 years in street-racing death

Robert Roedell sentenced on vehicular homicide charges

ORLANDO, Fla. – The man who killed a 15-year-old boy on a bicycle during a suspected street race was sentenced Friday afternoon to 10 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Robert Roedell was racing his car near 70 mph in a 35 mph zone along Forsyth Road when he lost control, jumped a curb and hit Luis Rivera Ortega, who was riding his bike along the sidewalk.

Roedell was found guilty of vehicular homicide in February stemming from the 2008 New Year's Day incident.

Roedell was given credit for the 46 days he served. Prosecution had originally wanted Roedell to get the maximum punishment for the second-degree felony, which is 15 years in prison.

The judge also ruled that Roedell must pay the funeral expenses for the Rivera family, totaling $6,516 and expenses of Rivera's mother. He also will pay the Florida Highway Patrol $2,264 for the cost of the investigation and have his driver's license suspended for five years.

Roedell's team presented motions for acquittal and a new trial, which were denied. They also brought a neighbor, Roedell's best friend, Roedell's father and brother and Roedell's fiancee to defend Roedell's character.

"Please have mercy on my son," Roedell's father said.

Ortega's mother, Eliza, testified for prosecution saying Roedell took part of her role as mother away from her.

"Sometimes people see me smile, but my heart is black," Eliza Ortega said in court. She said she was disappointed that Roedell didn't get the maximum sentence, but she said she knows he will suffer.

"Because in those 10 years he will suffer, he will suffer a lot whole because he'll know he can't come out of those four walls," Ortega said.

She also said she resented the Roedell family for not apologizing in the last four years until the sentencing on Friday.

"I was really looking for an apology, but I was looking for an apology from Robert Roedell," Ortega said. "The family seen me for 4 years and they never come to me and tell me I'm so sorry. Today they want to say sorry because they know the defendant is getting sentenced."

After Rivera's death, state legislators passed a law in his name that penalizes those who take part and even watch a street race more severely. Florida Highway Patrol's Kim Montes said the law increases penalties, but it hasn't shown to be effective yet.

She said the challenge the law faces is requiring investigators to prove the car at fault was engaged at a competition, which is difficult to do.

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