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O.C. man sentenced to 5 years for killing doctor in hit-and-run

April 12, 2013|By Rick Rojas

An Orange County man was convicted and sentenced Friday to five years in state prison for killing a doctor who was riding her bicycle in Newport Beach and then fleeing the scene, prosecutors said.

Michael Jason Lopez, 40, pleaded guilty to a court offer of one felony count of hit-and-run causing death and a misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, according to a statement from the Orange County district attorney's office. A previous conviction of residential burglary in 1993 was considered during the sentence, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said that on the morning of Sept. 15, Lopez was driving his Toyota pickup on Newport Coast Drive when it struck Dr. Catherine Campion-Ritz, 57, as she rode her bicycle with her husband. He hit her from behind, throwing her onto the street.

Prosecutors said Lopez fled, rather than calling 911 or attempting to render aid.

Campion-Ritz was taken to a hospital, where she died hours after the accident.

Prosecutors said that Newport Beach police were able to identify Lopez's truck through surveillance video, which allowed them to determine his license plate number and that Lopez was driving. He was arrested days later.

"Catherine was many things to many people: physician and leader in the medical community, business leader, church rector and family leader. To me she was my wife," her husband said in a victim impact statement submitted to the court.

"She was my confidant, my partner in adventure, and my inspiration. There is an emptiness at home with no one to reminisce about [the] past, to discuss the day's events or to make plans for the future. The activities we did together I typically now do alone or not at all."

Several of her family members, including her siblings and her mother, also submitted statements, saying what her absence has meant for the family.

"I never expected to outlive my children," her mother said, "yet Kit is gone at 57 and I am still here at 87."

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Twitter: @rar

rick.rojas@latimes.com

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