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Gainesville man sentenced in fatal crash that killed 19-year-old woman; wrongful death lawsuit filed
Francisco Camarillo
Francisco Camarillo

A Gainesville man left the scene of a Feb. 5 fatal crash that killed a 19-year-old Jefferson woman, who was trying to check on him after he crashed into a guardrail. 

Investigators believe Francisco Camarillo left the county and fled to Texas. 

When Camarillo was brought back from Dallas to Hall County five months later, he was charged with first-degree vehicular homicide.

But prosecutors later decided to proceed on misdemeanor charges of hit and run along with driving without a license and failure to maintain lane.

Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver sentenced Camarillo, 36, to 48 months in November with the first half in county jail and the remainder on probation in the death of Charisma Farmer Lazcano.

Charisma Farmer Lazcano
Charisma Farmer Lazcano

Oliver said the probation time will be suspended upon Camarillo’s deportation, but it would be reinstated if he returns to the country.

Camarillo would also be subject to having his probation revoked if he comes back to the U.S.

Attorney Matt Cook, representing Lazcano’s husband Erick Lazcano, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in March against Camarillo and others.

According to Georgia State Patrol, Camarillo’s Honda Element was disabled around 10:30 p.m. Feb. 5 on I-985 near exit 20 after striking a guardrail.

State Patrol Cpl. J.G. Tucker said Lazcano pulled her car into the emergency lane with her flashing lights on ahead of the Honda Element.

Lazcano, who was not responsible for the crash, got out of her car to render aid to Camarillo, according to the lawsuit. Miriam Gunter, Lazcano’s mother, said her daughter was heading to pick up her husband.

Serguio Armando Zavala, of Gainesville, who was driving a Chevrolet Avalanche, swerved to avoid Camarillo’s car, hitting the back of it with the Avalanche’s passenger side, according to the state patrol report.

Zavala then went off the road and struck Lazcano, who was standing on the shoulder of the highway.

State patrol said Camarillo, who was determined to be the suspect at fault, left the scene.

But the district attorney’s office ultimately filed a Nov. 3 accusation in Hall County Superior Court charging only misdemeanors. Five days later, Oliver sentenced Camarillo.

Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said the case “presented a difficult causation issue,” trying to prove that Camarillo’s actions led to Lazcano’s death.

“In the end, it was determined that we could not prove so beyond a reasonable doubt,” Darragh said.

Gunter was disappointed with how the prosecution handled her daughter’s case. She felt that the case should have been presented to the grand jury instead of the reduced charges.

Oliver ultimately rejected the original negotiated sentence of 12 months to serve in jail.

Gunter described the emotion she felt delivering her victim-impact statement to Judge Oliver.

“I do not feel that there’s justice for my daughter,” Gunter said.

Lazcano, a homemaker with a “heart of gold,” was buried on her two-month wedding anniversary, Gunter said.

“She always did what she could to make others happy,” Gunter said. “She loved to laugh. She had a giggle like no other.”

Never having to worry about her daughter, Gunter said she “always knew (Lazcano) would respect others and she would do right.”

“When the cops knocked on my door that morning and told me I lost my baby and that she was helping somebody when she did it, it was no surprise,” Gunter said.

Because of the pending civil matter, Camarillo’s defense attorney Chloe Owens did not provide much information on the case. Owens said the defense was grateful that the prosecution elected not to pursue the first-degree vehicular homicide.

Owens did not know about Camarillo’s immigration status.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Camarillo, Zavala and Marisol Guzman de Sanchez, of Hall County, who owned the Honda Element.

The lawsuit claimed Zavala “negligently failed to keep a proper lookout for other traffic” and didn’t drive at a safe speed to avoid the collision.

The Times reached out to the attorneys representing Camarillo, Zavala and Guzman de Sanchez via email on Tuesday, Dec. 6, and Wednesday, Dec. 7, but no responses were received.

In filed responses to the lawsuit, Guzman de Sanchez’s attorneys, Bill Cowsert and Michael Broun, denied that she allowed Camarillo to use the Honda Element. They also wrote that Zavala was the cause of the collision and that any damages should be against him.

Zavala’s attorney, Adriane Sammons, wholesale denied the allegations of the complaint in the legal answer filed in May.