Originally posted December 3, 2001; transferred to this site.
On June 13th, while driving in Hollywood, former Noxzema girl and actress Rebecca Gayheart noticed that a line of cars had stopped in front of her. Blissfully disregarding that these cars were probably stopped for a good reason, she swerved into a two-way left-turn lane, at 40 miles per hour, to go around them. She would discover soon enough that the cars had stopped to allow nine-year-old Jorge Cruz, Jr. to cross the street. The car she was driving struck the young boy, who died the next morning.
On September 18th, a charge of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence was filed against Gayheart. She pleaded no contest, and on November 27th was sentenced to three years’ probation, the suspension of her driver’s license, a small fine, 750 hours of community service, and was ordered to produce a safe-driving video.
Interestingly, some weeks before the charges were filed, on August 6th, the boy’s parents, Jorge Cruz and Silvia Martinez, brought a wrongful death lawsuit against Gayheart and Marco Leonardi, the owner of the car she was driving. Thus, well-known plaintiff’s attorney Steven Lerman is being pitted against well-known celebrity defense attorney Harland Braun.
Gayheart was so chastised because of the criminal charges and the boy’s death, that on October 1st, she flipped her rental car into two parked vehicles. Poor baby. Her father actually commented: “Luckily, this time Rebecca only suffered a cut lip, but it could have been far worse. No trip to the grocery store is worth this.” And what about a boy’s life?
It is easy enough to dismiss this tragedy as just another rotten LA story. The annals of Hollywood sleaze are chock full of tales of celebrities killing nobodies or even other celebs–sometimes willfully–and getting away with it. But this one touches on too many contemporary issues to pass by.
Overwhelmingly, the media ignored the dead child, and painted Gayheart as the victim, who must now “suffer” for the rest of her life, with this sad incident on her conscience. Much was made of her paying for the medical and funeral expenses, and her tears (shed just at the right moments) during her sentencing. That she is an actress, and was clearly plying her craft in court, seemed to be missed by all the elite media outlets.
Then there’s the matter of Jorge Jr.’s illegitimacy. Exactly when were his parents going to get married? Were they even together before all this happened? They surely DID get together for the big lawsuit.
On the other hand, Gayheart’s parents are together, and have clearly been close to her, spoiling her, and are making excuses for her even now. Since the October 1st accident, Rebecca’s mother has been chauffeuring her around. One might think that being 29 and having plenty of money would equip Rebecca to take care of herself–but why should she start now?
Try to put aside the celebrity mythology, the lawsuit, and the wrist-slap sentencing. Turn your thoughts instead to the dead boy. Rebecca Gayheart should have stopped and waited, but made the fateful decision to go around those other cars. One of the first things taught to all prospective drivers, especially in California, is to NEVER pass a line of stopped cars, since they are very likely stopped for a pedestrian. Gayheart, though, was in a hurry.
Perhaps, she was heading to take a meeting about some new project, to round out her oeuvre, that already contains such classics as Scream 2 (1997), Urban Legends (1998), Shadow Hours (2000), and From Dusk Till Dawn 3 (2000). We should note that she started her career inauspiciously with Whatever Happened to Mason Reese (1990).
No doubt, the world needs much more of Ms. Gayheart, and the sooner the better.
As for Jorge Cruz, Jr., and what he could have contributed to the world, we will never know. But as to how much he is worth, and what he will contribute to his parents and Steven Lerman, we will find out in due course.