ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) –10-year-old Penny Pizarro was on her way to school when police say a driver in a stolen state-owned SUV crashed into her dad’s car. Penny later died from her injuries.
Friday, her school came together to honor her. “Just her presence, it was bright…she was literally a disco ball if you will,” says Desiree Vargas, Penny’s teacher and librarian.
The students and staff at the International School at Mesa Del Sol, rallied together to help one of their own. The school hosted a fundraiser and dedicated a booth solely to raise funds for Penny Pizarro’s family. Last month, 10-year-old Penny Pizarro and her father were hit by a car on their way to the school.
The driver had allegedly stolen a state-owned SUV from the fairgrounds, ran a stop sign, and crashed into them, leaving them both in critical condition. Penny died from her injuries almost two weeks ago. One of her teachers says Penny was the type of student you couldn’t help but notice. “She was always like, almost like a force, you know to get something done or had ideas. She wasn’t shy,” says Vargas.
Jennifer Pagan is a family friend who started the GoFundMe for the Pizarros. She says thanks to immense community support, they were able to cover all the funeral expenses.
“To see her peers and the amazing things that they’ve created and that they’ve put their heart in to, it’s just great to see an event where we can remember Penny in a joyous way,” says Jennifer Pagan, Pizarro family friend.
Penny’s best friend says Penny always made the class laugh and put others before herself. She says she wore pink Crocs to honor Penny because they were her favorite. “She was the best of friends to me. Even in the beginning when I didn’t really have any friends she was like my only friend,” says Leonela Padilla, Penny’s best friend.
The family says there are plans to do a 5K in October for Penny. Penny’s dad has since been released from the hospital but is struggling with his daughter’s death. He’s grateful for all of the community’s support.
“You know Penny is gone but she will not be forgotten…we’re going to be celebrating her life for a long time to come,” says Pagan.
Police say John Bearden Jr. confessed to using meth when he stole the SUV and ran a stop sign causing the crash. His charges have been updated to include homicide by vehicle after Penny’s death. He’s also facing fleeing the scene of a crash, stealing a car, and great bodily harm by motor vehicle charges.