Victim of mistaken identity: Recovery hasn't been easy

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By Lindsay Robinson By Lindsay Robinson
By Lindsay Robinson By Lindsay Robinson
By Lindsay Robinson By Lindsay Robinson

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- A Valley family is trying to hold law enforcement accountable in a highly-publicized case of mistaken identity.

Five years ago, Abby Guerra was involved in a rollover accident as she was coming back from a trip to Disneyland.

Department of Public Safety officers told the Guerra family that Abby Guerra had been killed.

However, six days later, they learned there had been a mix-up.

It was Abby Guerra's close friend, Marlena Cantu, who had died.

"I was planning for a funeral myself, paid for everything," said Abby Guerra's mother, Maria Guerra. "Friends, family, people coming from out of state. It was really, really sad and then suddenly they said, ‘Oh, we made a mistake.  She's alive.'"

The Guerras have taken the case to the Arizona Supreme Court, hoping no other parents will have to go through what they did.

The court will decide if officers have a duty to get a victim's identity right before notifying family.

"DPS need to get it right when they tell somebody that their family member has died," said the Guerra's attorney Mick Levin.

The state argues that holding officers liable will delay notifying victim's family, increasing their suffering.

Abby Guerra, now 24 years old and wheelchair-bound, appeared in court.

She says recovery hasn't been easy.

"It's been difficult," Abby Guerra said. "I mean I try to make the best, but it's hard."

Abby Guerra said she's having to learn how to live all over again.

"Before I was independent," said Abby Guerra. "I wasn't even living in Arizona. I was by myself.  Then to have to come back, wake up in the hospital not knowing anything, it's been tough."

If the court decides in the Guerra's favor, the case will go to trial.