At 89, Fresno bowling legend Ed Bourdase could barely stand at the courtroom lectern Wednesday to tell the judge what his son, killed by a man trying to elude law officers, meant to him.
His granddaughter, Rachael Ledesma, and daughter, Shalon Bourdase, held on to him as he spoke about Mark Steven Bourdase, 61, of Clovis, who was killed four years ago by a man leading police and the California Highway Patrol on a high-speed chase.
Prosecutor Noelle Pebet said Alexander Soto ran 20 red lights and 10 stop signs before he plowed into Mark Bourdase’s car near Fresno State on that Friday night, Feb. 8, 2013. The crash was so horrific, Superior Court Judge Denise Whitehead said, a CHP officer viewing the wreckage was left in tears.
Bourdase, the father of three sons, suffered massive head injuries and died eight days later.
“I miss him very much,” Ed Bourdase told Whitehead, who sentenced Soto to the maximum sentence of 21 years, eight months to life in prison.
I love you Mark. You’re a beautiful person.
The sentencing of Soto brought relief to Bourdase’s family, who told the judge that they don’t hate Soto and have forgiven him. But they wanted him to be punished so he could reflect in prison on his criminal behavior in order to become a better person.
For Ed Bourdase, a former professional bowler with his shares of victories (three wins, eight finals, 32 Top 5 finishes) in the Professional Bowlers Associations, his son’s death brought back a flood of sweet memories.
In a tribute to his son, Ed Bourdase recalled the good times, how his son tagged along with him in the 1960s and 1970s in bowling alleys from Montreal to New York to North Carolina to Houston and back to their hometown of Fresno. They got to hang out with the likes of legendary bowlers such as Marshall Holman, Earl Anthony, Pete Weber, Mark Roth, Jim Stefanich, Don McCune and Nelson Burton Jr.
But the elder Bourdase also talked about a son who wasn’t afraid to confront racism in the deep South. When tournament officials wouldn’t allow blacks to bowl in the South and in Texas, Mark Bourdase would organize a protest, his father said. When stores wouldn’t let blacks shop, Mark Bourdase would boycott them, he said.
In a Bee article in May 2012 that marked the closure of Cedar Lanes bowling alley, Mark Bourdase said his fondest memory was hanging out with his father and watching him win the PBA’s Fresno Open tournament in 1971.
But Mark was more than his father’s son, said Ed and Shalon Bourdase. He was smart, funny and loved to debate politics. Before the Internet, he had a huge interest in genealogy, traveling to Italy and France to learn how his family migrated to America, they said.
Mark Bourdase worked in the solar industry, and loved to play ice hockey and bowl. He was on his way home from Sierra Lanes bowling alley in north Fresno when he was killed, his father said.
In a final tribute to his son, Bourdase said:. “I love you Mark. You’re a beautiful person.”
Mark Steven Bourdase, 61, of Clovis, was killed the night of Feb. 8, 2013, after Alexander Soto, driving an Envoy with illegally tinted windows, refused to pull over during a traffic stop.
Bourdase was killed the night of Feb. 8, 2013, after Soto, driving an Envoy with illegally tinted windows, refused to pull over during a traffic stop near Blackstone and Gettysburg avenues in central Fresno.
The pursuit ended when Soto crashed into Bourdase’s car at Bullard and Chestnut avenues. The impact caused Soto to hit a fence on the Fresno State campus. He was arrested after running into a field. The collision demolished Bourdase’s car.
Jurors in March this year convicted Soto of murder and assault with a deadly weapon for ramming a patrol car during the pursuit. In addition, the jury found Soto guilty of a felony charge of resisting police by fleeing the scene of a 2012 traffic stop.
On the witness stand, Soto said he didn’t intend to kill Bourdase. He blamed law enforcement, saying police could have called off the pursuit.
But Pebet said Soto knew his actions were dangerous because in 2005 he led a CHP officer on a 30-minute, high-speed chase. During the pursuit, he ran red lights and nearly caused a collision, Pebet said. After he was caught, Soto apologized to the court, saying he was glad no one got hurt. “I learned my lesson,” he told the judge in 2005, according to Pebet.
But in September 2012, Soto was breaking the law again, Pebet told the jury. A Fowler police officer noticed that Soto was acting suspiciously. When the officer tried to pull Soto over, he took off. When he ran several red lights and stop signs at high speed, the officer ended the pursuit.
You took an innocent life.
Judge Denise Whitehead told the defendant, Alexander Soto
At Wednesday’s hearing, defense attorney Scott Baly told the judge that Soto is remorseful and prays often to God for forgiveness and on behalf of the person he killed.
Soto apologized to Bourdase’s family, saying: “I did not do this in cold blood.” He also thanked them for forgiving him.
Whitehead, however, said Soto wasn’t being truthful. The judge scolded him for blaming police for not calling off the pursuit. Whitehead also noted that Soto’s apology letter to her, in which he asked for leniency, was similar to the one he wrote to the court in 2005.
Before announcing the punishment, Whitehead told Soto he should be thankful that the Bourdase family had forgiven him. “He was a wonderful father, a wonderful son,” the judge told the family. “It’s unimaginable what you have been through.”
The judge had harsh words for Soto. “You have no respect for law enforcement,” Whitehead said.
“You took an innocent life. There’s no way you can come back from that. There’s no way you can fill the hole in Mr. Bourdase’s family life,” Whitehead said.