Orange County man gets nine years in prison for crash that killed Selma woman

A man who was under the influence of drugs when he caused the 2018 crash that killed a 68-year-old Selma woman was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Tyler Banks of Laguna Hills in Orange County was charged with multiple felonies in the crash that killed Esperanza Cervantes on the afternoon of March 3, 2018.

Cervantes was about three-quarters of a mile from her home when the car driven by Banks came barreling toward her. The 40-year-old Banks blew through a stop sign, plowing into Cervantes’ vehicle at Nebraska and Bethel avenues. She was taken to Community Regional Medical Center with major injuries. She died five days later.

The California Highway Patrol estimated that Banks was traveling about 80 mph at the time of the crash. After slamming into Cervantes, a dazed Banks got out of his vehicle and ran. He was found a short time later lying in the driveway of a nearby home. He had a white powdery residue on his lips and no shoes, court documents show.

An officer at the scene reported that Banks appeared to be under the influence of drugs. He told officers he was on fire and being chased by eight cars, according to court documents.

A blood test taken later that day at Community Regional Medical Center found he had a potentially toxic amount of methamphetamine in his system.

Banks was charged with six felonies. But in April he pleaded no contest to a felony charge of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. The maximum sentence is 11 years.

Family recalls ‘kindhearted’ woman

Prosecutor Esmeralda Garcia and family members of the victim pushed for the maximum penalty. Family members spoke during Wednesday’s sentencing about how much they will miss Cervantes.

“I lost my wife and my children have lost their mother,” said Leroy Sr., the victim’s husband. “It hurts.”

Leroy Cervantes Jr. described his mother as kindhearted and giving. She helped him raise his oldest son and the two were so close that he called her mom.

“This has been too emotional for him, he can’t come to these court hearings, its just too hard,” Leroy Cervantes Jr. said.

Lillia Cervantes, who lives in Southern California, said she will miss talking to her mother the most. She would call her on a daily basis.

“Now, if I want to see her, I will have to go to her grave site,” she said.

Cervantes Jr. and family members were with her at the hospital when she died. She was suffering from severe internal injuries and multiple broken bones.

“We were there when she took her final breath,” he said. “I don’t wish that on anyone.”

Attorney pleads for probation

Banks’ attorney Maribel Romo pleaded with Judge Wayne Ellison to give Banks probation. She said Banks is remorseful and has been attending AA meetings in jail to help him deal with his drug addiction.

“He understands the family has been hurt,” she said. “But I see something in him. He is trying to change and be a better person.”

Banks spoke briefly. He told the judge and family that he knows what he did was terribly wrong.

“I will have to live with this for the rest of my life, it is something I will never forget,” he said.

Ellison said that while he hoped Banks can kick his drug addiction and turn his life around, he also committed a very serious crime for which there has to be punishment.

“The fact is that there has to be consequences for these tragic and awful things,” Ellison said. “And probation is inappropriate.”

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A Valley native, Robert has worked at The Fresno Bee since 1994, covering various topics including education, business and agriculture. He currently covers courts.