LANCASTER – A man who drunkenly crashed an SUV into a Palmdale home, killing a 16-year-old girl sleeping inside, pleaded no contest Thursday to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
Roberto Rodriguez, 21, of Palmdale, was immediately sentenced to 10 years in state prison and was ordered to pay $10,709 in restitution to the victim’s family to cover funeral expenses, according to Ricardo Santiago of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Rodriguez also waived his “back” time, meaning he gave up credit for the 18 months he’s already served in custody, Santiago said.
The sentence stems from a deadly crash that occurred during the early morning hours of April 20, 2014, which was Easter Sunday.
Rodriguez plowed a 2007 Nissan Pathfinder into a bedroom in an apartment complex near Avenue R and 10th Street East in Palmdale, killing Giselle Mendoza as she slept.
In a recorded interview with detectives following the crash, a then 20-year-old Rodriguez said he had consumed six to seven cans of Bud Light while playing beer pong at a friend’s house. Rodriguez said he remembered “going fast” on the drive home, but didn’t remember the crash, according to the recorded interview, which was played at a preliminary court hearing earlier this year.
“I closed my eyes and, next thing you know, just crashed,” Rodriguez said, according to the police interview.
A Nissan technical specialist said Rodriguez’s Pathfiinder was traveling 105 miles per hour in the seconds before its airbags deployed, according to testimony at the preliminary court hearing. The vehicle jumped a raised curb and went through a fence before crashing through the structural wall of the apartment complex and into Mendoza’s bedroom, a sheriff’s deputy testified at the hearing.
Rodriguez was originally charged with murder and DUI, along with the vehicular manslaughter charge, and could have faced 15 years to life in prison if convicted of all charges, prosecutors said.
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