Virginia authorities suspect that a woman who killed a pedestrian when she drove her car into him last weekend may have done it intentionally.

According to, Virginia Beach police responded to a report that a woman driving a car hit a man in the Plaza Middle School parking lot around 5:30 a.m. on September 20. The man, identified as Richard Owen Pentz, was transported to a hospital where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries. He was 47 years old.

The woman has been charged with second degree murder and is currently in jail without bond.

When a driver causes a traffic fatality, he or she is charged with manslaughter (if authorities decide to bring charges at all). A driver commits manslaughter when she causes the death of another person but didn’t intend to. In this case however, the woman who hit Mr. Pentz was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, suggesting investigators believe she may have intended to kill Mr. Pentz. Reports that the driver and Mr. Pentz had been in a relationship several times in the past may support this charge.

If the second-degree murder charges go forward and this woman is guilty, she should be punished to the full extent of the law. Intentionally running down a human being with a 2000 lb. vehicle is a condemnable action.

For Mr. Pentz family, a criminal conviction may provide some peace of mind that justice was served, but it does nothing to directly compensate them for this untimely loss. The purpose of the criminal court is to punish criminals and deter the rest of society from committing crimes; the purpose of the civil system is to compensate a victim or his surviving family for the loss a person caused, regardless of whether that person is also deemed criminally responsible.

Of course there is no way to bring back a deceased victim or erase the painful emotional scars his death has caused, so the civil system compensates victims and their beneficiaries in dollars and cents. A wrongful death claim is pursued against the at-fault driver’s insurance for the monetary value of the victim’s death, and what ramifications the death has on his beneficiaries. While this kind of calculation seems impossible to determine – and it certainly isn’t a science – an experienced wrongful death attorney can evaluate a potential claim for damages including funeral and burial costs, loss of future income, and loss of companionship or care, and find all possible sources for recovery.