A man who killed a 19-year-old woman in a hit-and-run collision at a Riverside intersection was sentenced today to 15 months in jail.
Erasto Gomez, 59, pleaded guilty last month to hit-and-run resulting in death, vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence and driving on a suspended license. In exchange for his admissions, the Riverside County District Attorney's Office requested that the four-year prison sentence that he was otherwise facing be suspended.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Kelly certified the terms of the plea agreement and imposed the sentence stipulated by the prosecution and defense. In addition to the jail time, Kelly ordered Gomez to pay $42,000 in victim restitution.
The family of Linda Rodriguez of Moreno Valley told the court they forgave the defendant for what happened because that's what she would've wanted. The fatal collision occurred about 5:50 a.m. Dec. 9, 2016, at the intersection of Magnolia Avenue and Tyler Street.
According to Riverside police Sgt. Ben Shafer, Rodriguez was headed west on Magnolia in her Nissan Sentra, on a green light, when Gomez's southbound
2001 Dodge Ram 3500 series van ran a red light on Tyler, broadsiding the victim's sedan.
The impact to the passenger side of the Nissan propelled it into a utility pole and water control valve in the center median, according to Shafer. The valve was sheared off, sending a geyser of water over the car. Rodriguez was extricated from the wreckage by Riverside Fire Department crews and pronounced dead at the scene. Her friends said she had been on her way to work. Gomez later confessed to Detective Ken Madsen that he sped away after the collision.
"Gomez said he thought the traffic light was green, but as he entered the intersection, he saw it was red,'' Madsen wrote in an arrest warrant affidavit. "He tried to stop, but his van and the car collided. He thought the other driver was hurt, but he was scared so he went home. He never thought about calling 911, even though he had his cell phone with him.''
The defendant was briefly tailed by a good Samaritan, who jotted down the van's license number before it drove out of sight in the area of Indiana Avenue and Van Buren Boulevard. According to Riverside police, Gomez's vehicle was located about seven hours later at 7850 Cypress Ave., where investigators arrested the uninjured defendant without incident. Court records show he has a prior misdemeanor conviction for being an unlicensed operator of a motor vehicle.
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