LANCASTER – A Lancaster man pleaded no contest Tuesday in connection with a DWI crash that killed a pedestrian in Lancaster.
James Leonel Gonzalez, 40, is facing 26 years and four months in state prison as a result of his no contest plea to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Gonzalez also admitted an allegation that he fled the scene of the Aug. 4, 2018, crash.
Gonzalez was initially charged with murder and other counts stemming from the collision that killed Rodney Richard Jr. as he crossed the street at 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 the 22-year-old 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. He was arrested in January 2020 and has remained behind bars since then.
Gonzalez is due back in a Lancaster courtroom for sentencing on May 7.
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