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Driver Takes Plea in 1997 Hit-and-Run Death of Kristen Nemec

A driver who jumped bail 13 years ago after a West Village hit-and-run pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter yesterday.

Jose Heras was 21 when he mowed down 25-year-old Kristen Nemec as she and a group of friends crossed Houston Street at LaGuardia Place in the early morning hours of Sunday, May 25, 1997. Nemec, a native of West Los Angeles in town for a sorority sister's wedding, was wearing her bridesmaid's dress when she died less than half an hour later at St. Vincent's Medical Center. Wrote the Times:

''Her boyfriend said that they had just crossed the street, and he hadstopped in the center divider, and she was just a couple of pacesbehind him,'' said her father, Richard. ''Then he turned around and sawwhat had happened.''

Police found Heras' abandoned BMW a few blocks away. He turned himself in to police and was initially charged with leaving the scene. Heras, a U.S. citizen, fled the country and was eventually found in Cuenca, Ecuador. He was deported from Ecuador last August.

"This is a victory on two fronts: aggressive prosecution of a vehicular crime, and closing an open homicide," a spokesperson with Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance's office told Streetsblog.

Heras will be sentenced on March 12, according to the AP, when he faces a maximum prison term of seven years.

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