FOREST GROVE, Ore. -- The parents of two girls killed after a hit-and-run accident on Oct. 20, say they have forgiven the two suspects in the case.
Anna Dieter-Eckerdt, 6, and her 11-year-old stepsister Abigail Robinson were struck in front of their home while playing in a pile of leaves.
According to court documents, the driver, Cinthya Garcia Cisneros,18, and her 18-year-old passenger, Mario Echeverra, intentionally hit the pile of leaves, felt their SUV hit something and then drove on.
According to investigators, Cisneros' brother returned to the scene and discovered the children had been hit. Echeverria then took the SUV to a car wash to destroy the evidence.
The girls' parents, Susan Dieter-Robinson and Tom Robinson said the community and their faith have given them the strength to both forgive and carry on.
"Sometimes I question how I can have so much peace?" said Susan Dieter-Robinson, standing next to her husband Tom Robinson inside Sonrise Church in Hillsboro. "My girls are gone. They both technically died in front of my house. I know that's where Jesus came to get them. And I have tremendous peace when I'm in that spot."
Dieter is Anna's biological mother and Robinson is Abigail's biological father. Abigail's biological mother, Tersia Theel, spoke with KGW in a separate interview on Oct. 24.
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"I can't change what happened to my girls," Dieter-Robinson went on to say. "I've said many times I just want to wake up, reverse the clocks, but I can't change it."
Sonrise Church pastor Eric Schmitt is a close friend of the Robinsons, and was there as they spoke to the media. He says it's a very rare, spiritual maturity that is holding them together.
“This is rare,” said Schmidt. "By their actions, by their behavior and by their character that's who we're all supposed to be. It's how we're all supposed to respond to tragedy when things don't go our way. When accidents do happen."
Both Dieter and Robinson expressed anguish over the loss of their children, but both have found comfort in the support they've received from their community and spiritual faith.
"I feel held. I feel lifted," said Dieter-Robinson. "I can't be a puddle because my community is holding me up."
The two were in seclusion immediately following the death of the two girls. But hundreds gathered at Sonrise Church in support of the family.
"It's a testament to our girls. They were so loved, not only by us but by anyone who met them," said Dieter.
Residents of Forest Grove along with others around the country have raised $34,000 for the family. Dieter and Robinson said they want to use the money to spruce up a jungle gym at the school near their home.
"The love that was shown to us was just incredible and we're really thankful," Robinson said.
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The family said it forgives Cisneros, and pastors say they'll eventually want to meet with her in person to tell her they know it was an accident. "It's one of those freaky things that happen, the timing of it all, totally freak accident and they understand and realize that," Pastor Schmitt said.
Sonrise pastors have even prayed with the teen suspects behind bars, They said it's given the family a little bit of peace.
"They (Cisneros and Echevarria) need to feel loved and embraced and they need to come to an understanding that we all understand it was an accident," said Schmitt. "If they don't understand that in their hearts...it's going to ultimately destroy them."
The two teenage suspects were arrested on Oct.21 in connection with the crash.
The driver, Cinthya Garcia-Cisneros remains in custody facing hit-and-run charges. Her boyfriend and co-defendant, Mario Echeverria is out on bail. He was charged with tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution.
Both plead not guilty to the charges.