Heartbroken husband opens up after losing wife in San Jose hit-and-run

Family members said Hillary Lopez was blessed with both beauty and substance.

"She was the nicest person. She was so empathetic. She could really feel your feelings. She would always be there for you," said her husband David Martinez Espana.

Standing outside his sister-in-law’s home in Fremont on Thursday, he said he first noticed the browned eyed social worker four years ago, while traveling in Peru. He used salsa moves to sway her to his love, and two years later, the pair was wed.

Lopez moved from Colombia to the Bay Area, joining family in Fremont. And Martinez Espana planned to follow. But the COVID pandemic kept them separated for seven months, due to closed borders.

Finally, this past fall, destiny seemed poised to springboard two young lives together.

"We were settling down, yes. I feel like I am still  settling down. And then this happens," said Martinez Espana.

All of their plans were destroyed Dec.16. San Jose police said that day, 71-year-old Lynn Nguyen committed two hit-and-run accidents within minutes and feet of each other. The second crime led to Lopez’ death on Senter Road near Wool Creek.

"We’re doing pretty good so far. It hasn’t gotten that sad, yet. But for me each day it just gets sadder, and sadder, and sadder," said Donovan Ames, Lopez’ nephew. Added Martinez Espana, "Last week definitely has been the hardest week in my life. In our lives. It’s been terrible."

Amid their pain, a glimmer of hope in memory of Hillary. The focus now is on the multitude of causes she championed. And the young lives she touched working as a social worker at Franklin Elementary School in San Jose.

"That’s very difficult. That’s very difficult to think of. But I just want to honor her so I’m trying to think like that," said Martinez Espana.

A celebration of life is planned in January to honor Lopez.