Instead of having a jury trial, a big-rig truck driver pleaded no contest Tuesday in Fresno County Superior Court to killing a mother and son from Selma and injuring three others before leaving the scene of a drunken-driving collision south of Fresno in July 2014.
Alonso Hernandez entered his plea to five felony charges of gross vehicular manslaughter, drunken driving causing death and injury, and hit-and-run just before jury selection was to begin in his criminal trial.
Under a plea agreement, Hernandez faces up to 20 years in prison, prosecutor Sally Moreno said.
Hernandez, who will be 50 years old on Thursday, accepted the agreement because it allows defense attorney Peter Pacheco to argue for a sentence of less than 20 years.
The defendant will be sentenced on April 15. Until then, Judge Jonathan Skiles ordered Hernandez to remain in the Fresno County Jail without bail.
Outside court, Pacheco said Hernandez, a resident of Los Angeles, had no prior criminal record before the crash and wanted to take responsibility for his actions.
“He made a mistake and he’s going to have pay for that mistake,” Pacheco said.
Both sides agreed that Hernandez had a blood-alcohol reading of .14, which is more than threes times over the legal limit of .04 to drive a commercial big rig, when his Kenworth truck rear-ended a 2003 Kia sedan at Manning and Fowler avenues on July 31, 2014.
The California Highway Patrol said the Kia had stopped at a stop sign when it was struck. The impact pushed the Kia through the intersection and into a utility pole. The big rig then continued east on Manning Avenue and ran into a Peterbilt truck driven by Julio Valenzuela of Reedley.
Hernandez drove about another mile before stopping near Highway 99 at a gasoline station and running away from the truck. CHP officers arrested him nearby.
Leticia Trejo, 55, and her son, Ricardo Santos, 14, who were passengers in the Kia, were killed. Trejo’s husband, Efrain Santos, and her 34-year-old daughter, Reynalda Santos, who was driving the Kia, were seriously injured and taken to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
Hernandez and Valenzuela suffered minor injuries.
As part of the plea agreement, Hernandez admitted to injuring Valenzuela and Efrain and Reynalda Santos, who was in a coma for three months and suffered partial paralysis.