The family of a Hesperia mother is devastated after a DUI driver slammed head-on into her vehicle and killed her while leaving her children hospitalized.

On May 11, 36-year-old Lisette Villasenor and two of her children were driving along Highway 395, just north of Poplar Street, when an SUV driver swerved into oncoming traffic, striking Lisette’s car, authorities said.

The SUV driver was identified as Jose Vargas, 41, from Adelanto, by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

The collision killed Lisette and left her two children with serious injuries. Police discovered Vargas had several prior DUI convictions before the fatal crash that killed Lisette.

Lisette’s family remains devastated and believes the crash could’ve been prevented.

“Her kids, her husband, her home, her family was everything to her,” said Krystal Giron, Lisette’s sister-in-law. “Everyone was trapped in that car so they had to pull off a piece of the car to get them out.”

Lisette Villasenor in a family photo. The suspect's vehicle is seen moments after the deadly collision on May 11, 2023.
Lisette Villasenor in a family photo. The suspect’s vehicle is seen moments after the deadly collision on May 11, 2023.

Giron said she had just spoken to Lisette on the phone that morning. At around 6:30 p.m. that evening, the unthinkable happened.

Lisette had just dropped her son off at soccer practice and was driving her 12-year-old daughter Ashley to cheerleading tryouts. Her 6-year-old son Daniel was also in the car when the fatal crash happened.

Giron said her sister-in-law died on impact. What Lisette’s daughter did next however, may be the reason the girl’s little brother is still alive today.

“In a second, she’s like, ‘No, I have to call 911,’” Giron said of Ashley’s quick thinking. “‘I have to save my little brother’s life and my mom.’”

Lisette Villasenor’s three children in a family photo.
Lisette Villasenor’s three children in a family photo.

The violent crash left 6-year-old Daniel hospitalized in the ICU while Ashley was also transported to a local trauma center. Five days later, Daniel was discharged from the hospital. His family said he’s now recovering at home.

The suspect, Vargas, was uninjured from the crash and has since been charged with murder, authorities said.

Vargas has several DUI convictions spanning multiple counties including Orange, L.A., San Bernardino and San Diego, according to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.

Authorities said Vargas was given the “Watson Advisement” for at least two of the convictions.

The advisement is a formal statement that “states if you continue this behavior now knowing that it’s deadly and it could cause injury or death and you continue this behavior and it results in the loss of life, you can be charged with murder,” explained Jacquelyn Rodriguez, a San Bernardino County DA spokesperson.

Lisette’s family is now fighting for justice while also seeking harsher penalties when it comes to drunk driving, hoping this will never happen to someone else’s family.

“It should not take the death of someone’s life for a DUI arrest to be taken seriously,” said Giron.

A GoFundMe campaign has been created to help the family with funeral and medical expenses.

Vargas pled not guilty to the charges in court last Monday. He is due back in court later this month.