Tears flowed Thursday in a Fresno courtroom, where a man with six drunken-driving convictions was sentenced to 21 years to life in prison for killing a Fresno mother of eight and seriously injuring her husband in an alcohol-fueled crash on Friant Road near Lost Lake Park three years ago.
“I am sorry for the pain and misery I have caused your family,” defendant Luis Anthony Moreno told the children of Blia Vang, who was 54 when she was killed in the May 2013 collision, and her husband, Yee Her, who was injured.
Moreno, 52, choked up at times while he read his three-page apology in Fresno County Superior Court. His words caused some of the victims’ children to cry.
I am sorry for the pain and misery I have caused your family.
Convicted murderer Luis Anthony Moreno
Judge Gary Hoff said he had no doubt Moreno was remorseful. The judge also said he believed Moreno didn’t intend to kill Vang and seriously injure Her. In addition, Hoff said Moreno was sincere when he said that, in Vang’s honor, he would teach others about the dangers of drinking and driving.
But Hoff said he also had no doubt Moreno knew what his punishment would be.
In announcing the sentence, Hoff cited Moreno’s six DUI convictions and noted Moreno was on probation for drunken driving when he killed Vang. Hoff pointed out that Moreno’s blood-alcohol level was 0.36, or more than four times the legal limit to drive, two hours after the crash and likely 0.39 at the time of the crash.
The judge said Moreno also had completed a court-ordered inpatient alcohol treatment program before he killed Vang.
“You had the opportunity to address your alcoholism, but you didn’t,” Hoff told Moreno. “And according to your own testimony in trial you continued to drink and drive.”
The sentencing brought relief to the family of the victims, who tearfully told Hoff that they miss their mother every day.
Prosecutor Sally Moreno, who is not related to the defendant, said Luis Moreno had been drinking at his home in Kerman when he got into a fight with his fiancée. That evening, he decided to drive to Table Mountain Casino.
Losing a mother causes a family to disintegrate, and it leaves family members to pick up the pieces.
Prosecutor Sally Moreno
Luis Moreno was northbound on Friant when his pickup veered into the oncoming lane and slammed into a southbound Toyota Corolla driven by Her, then 55, the prosecutor said. Vang, a passenger in the Corolla, died at the scene. Her was taken by helicopter to Community Regional Medical Center.
Luis Moreno, who has been in jail since the crash, was tried for second-degree murder under the legal theory of “implied malice.” To get a murder conviction, prosecutor Moreno had to prove he drove under the influence, knew driving while drunk was dangerous, and showed a conscious disregard for human life.
During the trial, Sally Moreno told the jury the defendant acknowledged in his 2010 conviction that he understood that drinking and driving is dangerous to human life. He then was warned in court that if he killed someone while driving under the influence of alcohol he could be charged with murder, the prosecutor told the jury.
Defense attorney Ernest Scott Kinney argued that his client was too drunk to have a conscious disregard for human life. When he got behind the steering wheel of his truck, Moreno wasn’t thinking about killing anyone, Kinney told the jury.
In September, a jury found Moreno guilty of murder in the killing of Vang and guilty of felony drunken driving causing serious injuries to Her.
On Thursday, Sally Moreno told the judge Her was too distraught to attend the hearing.
“Losing a mother causes a family to disintegrate,” she told Hoff, “and it leaves family members to pick up the pieces.”