A truck driver was sentenced Friday to 17 years and four months in prison for killing a mother and her 14-year-old son from Selma and injuring several others in a hit-and-run, drunken-driving collision south of Fresno in July 2014.
Judge Jonathan Skiles had harsh words for Alonso Hernandez before his punishment was announced in Fresno County Superior Court.
Skiles said Hernandez never has shown remorse for killing Leticia Trejo, 55, and her son, Ricardo Santos. Instead, Hernandez and his supporters have focused on his future.
In letters to the judge, Hernandez’s supporters said the crash could have happened to anyone. But Skiles said that is far from the truth.
“This was not an accident,” Skiles told Hernandez, a Los Angeles resident who was assisted by a Spanish interpreter. “You made a conscious choice to drink a large amount of alcohol and get behind the wheel of a big rig.”
Because of this, the judge said, “Lives are damaged forever.”
In March, Hernandez, 50, pleaded no contest to five felony charges of gross vehicular manslaughter, drunken driving causing death and injury, and hit-and-run on the day jury selection was scheduled to begin in his criminal trial.
Under a plea agreement between the judge and the defendant, Hernandez faced up to 20 years in prison. But Skiles sentenced Hernandez to 17 years and four months in prison because he took responsibility for his crime by pleading no contest and had no prior criminal record.
According to prosecutor Sally Moreno, Hernandez had a blood-alcohol reading of .14 percent, which is more than three times over the legal limit of .04 percent 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. CHP officers arrested him nearby.
Trejo and her son, who were back-seat passengers in the Kia, died at the scene. 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.
Before the crash, Hernandez had picked up a load of onions in Five Points and was headed to Manning and Highway 99 to pick up another load before heading to Atlanta. He told authorities after the crash that he became nervous and drank two beers before he was arrested.
Efrain Santos was too distraught to attend Friday’s hearing, said Fresno attorney H. Ty Kharazi, who sued the trucking company, A2A Transportation Inc. in Bakersfield on the family’s behalf and settled for $1 million. Reynalda Santos, who was in a coma for three months and suffered partial paralysis, also couldn’t attend the hearing because of her injuries.
“The father is still very emotional about what happened,” Kharazi said. “He just wanted Hernandez to go to prison so it will teach others that drinking and driving is dangerous and you just can’t get away with it.”