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'He knew what he was doing': Family of Phoenix woman fatally stabbed while driving for Lyft feels punishment does not fit crime

Kristina Howato was expecting her third child when she was fatally stabbed after dropping off a passenger while driving for Lyft.

PHOENIX — It has been over three years since a pregnant Kristina Howato was stabbed and killed by a passenger while working as a Lyft driver in Phoenix.

Despite the passage of time and the approaching sentencing of the man responsible, her family still grieves this senseless act of violence.

"She always made us laugh during sad times," said her sister LeJeune Howato. "It's still really hard for me to talk about her."

The mother of two young boys and a soon-to-be newborn baby girl was killed in January 2019 by Fabian Durazo.

Kristina had just dropped off Durazo near Eighth Street and McClintock Drive, when for reasons unknown he began stabbing her.

"I always wonder what her last thoughts were," she said. "What her last words were. She was a good person. She was my partner in crime."

LeJeune says police knocked at her door around 1:30 a.m. telling her she needed to get to the hospital because her sister had been assaulted. When they got there, the doctor delivered devastating news.

"He came in and he told us that they did everything they possibly could to save my sister," she said. "But they couldn't save her. The baby was already gone because that was the first area he had stabbed. They told me I wasn't allowed to see her [Kristina] because of what had occurred, it was hard."

Durazo was arrested and initially pled not guilty, starting a series of court hearings that spanned nearly three years. However, he recently changed his plea to guilty and is now scheduled to be sentenced later this week.

"I just want to know why he did it? He had the knife, he took it with him, he had intent," LeJeune said. "He knew what he was doing."

Even as this all comes to a close, she still says her family is not getting the justice they feel they deserve.

"The prosecutors told me they were going to offer him a plea deal and I told them I was against it because I don't think that's fair considering what he took from us," she said. "I wanted him to sit in front of a jury because I know that would make a difference in the sentence he'd gotten."

25 years for the murder of LeJeune's sister and 20-25 years for the murder of Kristina's unborn daughter. 

For the two lives lost, LeJeune says she wanted the death penalty. However, she says that was taken off the plate because of how young he was. 

So she hoped for life behind bars, but it looks like that won't be the case either.

LeJeune says she feels like the system failed her family.

"Granted he'll have a life in jail, but my sister doesn't have a life," she said. "My nephews have to grow up without their mother."

It's hard, but LeJeune says she's trying to push through because that's what she says her sister would want her to do.


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