ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s taken 2.5 years, but the driver accused of crashing into and badly injuring two high school athletes has been arrested. On June 18, 2020, Amaya Payne and her best friend Georgia Salata were t-boned at the intersection of Tramway and Academy. The two Rio Rancho basketball players were on their way to lunch after a hike. Both girls were critically injured, left with fractured necks and backs, broken legs and head injuries.
The person who caused the crash fled the scene, leaving Amay pinned in the mangled car for 45 minutes. Police say that person was identified as 41-year-old Francisco Perez. For 2.5 years, the girls and their families have waited for him to be caught.
Court records show Perez was arrested on November 18 at a home on Barcelona Circle in the South Valley by Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office deputies. What’s unclear right now is what took so long for police to track him down.
Perez, if convicted, faces three years in prison. The family says it’s not nearly enough for the damage he’s caused. “You can’t put a price on your children’s life. There’s no amount that he could serve that he would probably be okay. I mean, when you hurt people and what he’s done to them it’s unforgivable,” said Michelle Pacheco-Ortiz.
Since the crash, both girls have graduated and moved on. Amaya is now in college at New Mexico State University. The two recently got matching tattoos saying by the grace of god. However, they say they still haven’t completely healed mentally or emotionally.
Amaya’s mom has some harsh words for Perez. “To me, how can you do to kids? Sixteen, no remorse… didn’t check breathing, didn’t help only cared about himself to protect himself and leave. So can’t even call him a man I feel like you’re a coward,” said Pacheco-Ortiz.
Perez was on probation for driving drunk with his one-year-old in the car when this crash happened. Prosecutors are seeking to revoke that probation. He is also wanted for weapons charges in Arizona.