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Ariel Russo's Grandma Faces Alleged Teen Killer for First Time in Court

By Emily Frost | August 7, 2013 3:11pm | Updated on August 7, 2013 4:39pm
 Katia Gutierrez faced the teen who critically injured her and killed her granddaughter in court for the first time Wednesday. 
Grandmother of Ariel Russo Faces Her Granddaughter's Alleged Killer
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MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — The grandmother who was critically injured in a crash by an unlicensed teen driver that killed her 4-year-old granddaughter faced down the driver for the first time in court Wednesday.

Katia Gutierrez, 58, wept as she laid eyes on Franklin Reyes, 17, for the first time since his out-of-control SUV plowed into her and killed Ariel Russo, 4.

“He has no idea of the tragedy he has caused,” Gutierrez said outside the courtroom at 100 Centre Street, before she collapsed into the arms of a relative.

“He has no idea what he has done to this family,” she said.

Reyes was arrainged on and indictment Wednesday charging him with manslaughter, assault, driving without a license, leaving the scene of the accident, and fleeing police. He was driving his parents' SUV to school on the Upper West Side on June 4 when he was stopped by police for making a reckless turn, prosecutors said.

He fled police in a "panic" over being caught driving without a license, just as Gutierrez and Ariel were walking to Ariel's school on the Upper West Side, cops said.

Reyes plowed into them as he tried to make a turn at West 97th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, authorities said.

He claimed that his brakes failed.

He said he "began to apply the brakes but they were not working correctly, and he hit a bump as he tried to make the turn and he lost control of the vehicle and went onto the sidewalk," according to court records.

He also told cops that he tried to evade police because he was worried about his parents reaction to getting caught behind the wheel.

"I panicked since I was going to get in trouble with my mother and the police," Reyes told police on the afternoon of the accident. 

Martin Schmukler, Reyes' attorney, told Supreme Court Justice Gregory Carro his client would like to negotiate a plea agreement. The Russo family said they want Reyes to get the maximum 25-year sentence.

“Whatever comes out of this trial must speak volumes to New York City and to everyone about what happens when you make decisions without thinking of the consequences,” said Gutierrez, who is receiving physical therapy four times a week and has undergone CAT scans to determine if she suffered any brain injury.

Sofia and Alan Russo, Ariel’s parents, comforted Gutierrez as she wept.

“He tried to avoid the consequences and now he’s trying to avoid consequences again…it’s not fair,” said Sofia Russo, who became overcome with emotion as her mother described the chaos and pain the tragedy has wrought.

Carro agreed to adjourn the case until Sept. 24.

Russo said consequences are part of growing up and that Reyes has to serve the maximum sentence of life in prison.

“He hasn’t apologized. He has not tried to reach out,” Russo said.