Marine who killed man in fatal, wrong-way crash in California gets six years
SANTA ANA, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — A 22-year-old Michigan man was sentenced to six years in prison Monday, June 14, for a drunken, wrong-way crash on Beach Boulevard in Stanton that killed another driver.
Christian Alejandro Vasquez, who was in the U.S. Marines at the time of the collision, pleaded guilty last year to a felony count of gross vehicular manslaughter and a misdemeanor count of driving without a license related to the Aug. 16, 2020, crash that took the life of 70-year-old Jerry Duplesse.
Vasquez, during Monday’s hearing, told Judge Cheryl Leininger, as well as Duplesse’s family, that he never considered denying responsibility for the drunken crash. In return for his guilty plea, two additional DUI charges tied to the same collision were dismissed.
“No one should have to go through what you and your family is going through,” Vasquez said. “I am so profoundly sorry.”
Judge Leininger said the case was “tragic on so many levels,” with a Marine with no criminal record taking the life of a man who was “an absolute treasure to his family and friends.”
The judge noted that Vasquez pleaded guilty early in the court process, expressed remorse and has stated a desire to atone for his actions.
“That does not excuse this act or justify it, but the court must consider all those things,” Leininger said.
“I know there is no sentence that will be sufficient for the heartbreak you are feeling,” the judge said to the family.
Vasquez, then 21, was driving the wrong way on Beach with his headlights off when he crashed into a vehicle driven by Duplesse, who was taken to a hospital where he died five days later.
Vasquez — driving without a license — had a blood-alcohol level of .26 at the time of his arrest, more than three times the legal driving limit.
Two weeks before the fatal crash, prosecutors said, Vasquez had an “alcohol-related incident” on a military base where he allegedly tried to physically assault two other Marines and was “disrespectful” to a command duty officer.
A defense attorney told the judge that Vasquez didn’t plan to drive the night of the crash, but he had been kicked out of a hotel room where he was visiting other Marines.
Vasquez opted for an open plea, meaning he was given no assurances of what punishment he would face. The judge had the option of sentencing Vasquez to up to 10 years in prison.
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