LANCASTER – A Lancaster man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder and other charges stemming from a hit-and-run crash that killed a pedestrian in August 2018.
James Gonzalez, 39, faces one count each of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and hit-and-run driving resulting in death or serious injury to another person.
Gonzalez — who is due back in a Lancaster courtroom June 30 — faces up to 43 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
The case stems from an Aug. 4, 2018, collision that killed 22-year-old Rodney Richard on Lancaster Boulevard near Elm Avenue in Lancaster.
A white GMC Sierra traveling at an extremely high rate of speed in a 15 mph zone struck Richard and sped off without stopping, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Detectives from the Lancaster sheriff’s station unsuccessfully searched for months for the vehicle, with the county Board of Supervisors issuing a $10,000 reward in 2018 for information leading to the suspect and the city matching the $10,000 reward.
Detectives received an anonymous tip 14 months later, which resulted in three months of investigation that led them to identify Gonzalez as the suspect, according to the sheriff’s department. Gonzalez was arrested Jan. 15, 2020 and has remained behind bars since then.
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