A state appeals court panel has upheld a Los Angeles man’s second-degree murder conviction for leading police on a high-speed chase that ended with a head-on collision that killed his girlfriend just over six years ago.

The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that there were errors in Jeffrey Minifie’s trial, which resulted in his conviction in November 2015 on charges of second-degree murder, kidnapping and evading police.

He apologized to Lilian Janeth Pleitez-Duarte’s family before being sentenced to 30 years and eight months to life in state prison for triggering the Feb. 16, 2012, crash that killed the 36-year-old mother of three.

“I loved Lilian and her daughters and am tormented knowing they do not have their mother with them any more because I drove recklessly and did not stop my car that morning … I really hope God heals your hearts,” he said.

Witnesses testified that they saw Minifie force Pleitez-Duarte into his black GMC Yukon.

Deputy District Attorney Scott McPheron told jurors that Pleitez-Duarte jumped out of the SUV and walked away and that Minifie “ran toward her and dragged her back into the passenger seat … climbed over her, struck her” and got behind the wheel.

Minifie drove off and then made a U-turn when he spotted a patrol car responding to another call, and the SUV veered into oncoming traffic. That caught the attention of a police officer who saw the passenger door open during the maneuver and gave chase, according to the prosecutor.

The defendant ran several red lights while speeding away from police, ultimately colliding head-on with an eastbound Volvo in the 2400 block of West Sixth Street in the Westlake area of Los Angeles.

“He kidnapped her and drove the car 80-90 mph and crashed it and killed her,” McPheron told the jury, noting that the collision also injured the Volvo’s driver.

Defense attorney Kimberly Curran said her client should be “responsible for the crimes he did commit,” including evading police and causing serious injury, but said he didn’t intend to kidnap his girlfriend and argued that it was “not a case of murder.”

She said Minifie “experienced profound remorse” and conceded there was no good explanation for why he fled from police, telling jurors: “No one will ask you to condone this behavior (or) excuse Mr. Minifie.”

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