Two men involved in a hit-and-run crash that prompted one to chase the other through Orange, resulting in a 9-year-old boy being fatally struck, should be convicted of manslaughter, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday, but an attorney for one of the motorists blamed the other for the child’s death.
“They’ll be pointing a finger at each other,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Whitney Bokosky said of the defendants. “But I’m pointing a finger at both of them.”
Miguel Villagomez Jr., 29, of Anaheim, and Roderick Kent Jerro, 53, of Orange, are both charged with gross vehicular manslaughter stemming from the Aug. 6, 2015, chase and crash that killed 9-year-old Jesse Rosales on Glassell Street at Wilson Avenue.
Jerro is also charged with hit-and-run causing permanent injury. Jerro, who has a prior strike conviction for a 1986 residential burglary in Los Angeles County, pleaded guilty Monday to being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to court records.
According to the prosecutor, Villagomez, who was driving a Ford Ranger pickup, ran a red light and struck Jerro’s Chevy Malibu at Palm Avenue and Tustin Street in Orange about 9:30 p.m. that night.
Villagomez kept going, “and that was unacceptable to Mr. Jerro,” Bokosky said.
The two raced through local streets as they ran through stop signs and red lights, even driving on the wrong side of the road, Bokosky told jurors.
The two were still “driving like maniacs” when they ran a red light on Glassell at Wilson, Bokosky said.
Jesse and his 14-year-old sister, Yadira, were crossing Glassell to meet with their mother, Leticia, Bokosky said.
Villagomez’s truck just missed hitting Yadira, who jumped back, Bokosky said.
“Jesse does what any 9-year-old does when they’re fearful — he goes for his mother,” putting him in the path of Jerro’s car, Bokosky said.
The Malibu’s driver’s side mirror struck Jesse as witnesses heard a palpable “thump,” Bokosky said. The boy’s DNA was found on the car, according to the prosecutor.
The boy was flung 30 feet, and was pronounced dead just before 10 p.m. at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, she said.
The two suspects kept going until Villagomez lost control of his truck at Taft Avenue and slammed into a brick wall, Bokosky said.
Jerro, still irate over the initial crash, grabbed a flashlight and smashed the windows of Villagomez’s pickup, the prosecutor said. Villagomez was on his cell phone and ignored witnesses who ran to his aid, she said.
Jerro’s attorney declined to immediately make an opening statement, but Villagomez’s lawyer, Julie Swain, foisted blame for the boy’s death on Jerro — indicating the defendants both plan to point the finger at the other during the trial.
Swain said she agreed with most of the prosecution’s case, but said the evidence will show her client was not legally responsible for the boy’s death.
Swain said Villagomez was trying to get away from the enraged Jerro following the minor hit-and-run.
“Mr. Villagomez did his best to drive away as safely as possible,” Swain said.
Villagomez was “afraid” of Jerro, she said.
At the final crash, Jerro allegedly told police, “It’s lucky you guys got here, I was going to kill him,” Swain said, adding, “Who wouldn’t run from that?”
Jerro had allegedly been a victim in another hit-and-run crash prior to that night and told police he had just gotten his car repaired, Swain said.
Villagomez “is not legally responsible for Jesse Rosales’ death,” Swain said. “It’s a tragedy, but what would compound the tragedy is Mr. Villagomez being held responsible for something he didn’t do.”
Jerro’s attorney, Jerome Bradford, reserved the right to make an opening statement later on in the trial.
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