Brandon Hernández 9 a.m., April 24
Escondido man gets 45-years-to-Life for fatal DUI
Repeat felon, high on heroin, driving stolen vehicle, crossed into oncoming traffic
An Escondido man who caused the death of a passenger in his car when he drove head-on into another car, was sentenced to 45-years-to-Life in prison today.
“Justice was served with this lengthy state prison sentence,” said prosecutor Laurie Hauf.
Last month, it took a jury just two hours of deliberation to declare Jose Raul Najera, 34, guilty of second degree murder, after a three-day-trial in San Diego’s North County courthouse.
Jose Raul Najera told paramedics he was high on heroin when he drove a stolen car in Valley Center a year ago, on April 25, 2012.
Deputies were in pursuit and witnessed Jose Raul Najera cross over to the wrong side of the road. San Diego Sheriff’s deputy Nathan Rowley said he saw a “mushroom cloud of plastic” when the cars collided, after a pursuit which lasted less than sixty seconds.
The stolen Ford collided with a Subaru driven by a 76-year-old woman; she survived to testify at trial, and came back to hear sentencing today.
Thirty-two-year-old David Lopez, a passenger in the stolen Ford, died of blunt force trauma to his chest, according to a county medical examiner.
Public defender Mignon Hilts had told the jury, “Mister Najera made some bad decisions that day” but he “is not a callous murderer.” The defense attorney asked the jury to find the defendant guilty of manslaughter.
Besides the murder charge, Najera was also convicted of DUI causing injury, evading a peace officer causing death, stolen vehicle, and possession of meth.
“Given the defendant’s criminal history, this was an accident waiting to happen,” said deputy district attorney Laurie Hauf. The prosecutor claims Najera has seven prior felony convictions in San Diego County, including two “strike priors.” The prior offenses began the year Najera turned 20, these include burglaries, theft, drug and gang crimes.
Honorable Kathleen Lewis sentenced 34-year-old Jose Raul Najera to 45-years-to-Life this morning, April 30, 2013.
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