An Anaheim man was sentenced Friday to four years in prison for a road rage-fueled crash that killed a 9-year-old boy in Orange three years ago.
Miguel Villagomez Jr., 29, was convicted in August of gross vehicular manslaughter in connection with the Aug. 6, 2015, chase and crash that killed Jesse Rosales on Glassell Street at Wilson Avenue.
Villagomez offered a tearful apology in Spanish to the victim’s family, and told them that he had “fallen into a horrible depression” after the deadly collision.
“I have long wanted to ask you to forgive me,” Villagomez said, turning toward the boy’s mother and stepfather in the courtroom. “That was my intention to do from the beginning, but I could not. That was very difficult for me.”
Addressing Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert Knox in English, the defendant said he was wearing an orange jail jump suit “because in my heart, and before God, I humbly recognize that my actions of irresponsibility are what brought me here. It was extremely irresponsible of me driving in the way I did. I drove very dangerously, putting the lives of other people in danger. My actions did lead to a sad tragedy that made a huge impact on me; a tragedy that brings sadness to my heart and soul, and it has marked me for the rest of my life.”
He also apologized to his family for “dishonoring you, and causing you much worry and sadness,” and said he wanted to ask the co-defendant to forgive him and that he has “forgiven” co-defendant Roderick Kent Jerro.
A probation officer reviewing Villagomez’s case recommended probation for the defendant, but Knox rejected that option, citing, in part, the “vulnerability” of the victim.
Villagomez’s attorney, Julie Swain, argued that her client was not the primary cause of the collision. She also noted that the defendant’s family attended every day of the trial and were there for his sentencing.
“My client has conducted himself in an exemplary fashion” since the collision, she said, telling the judge that he has shown “true remorse” for his actions.
“I’ve never heard anything like that in my 21 years in practice,” she said of Villagomez’s apologetic courtroom statement.
A Nov. 2 sentencing date is set for Jerro, 53, of Orange, who was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run causing permanent injury. He could face up to 25 years to life in prison as a third striker with a prior conviction for a 1986 residential burglary in Los Angeles County.
The defendants pointed blame at each other during the trial.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Whitney Bokosky told jurors during the pair’s trial that Villagomez, who was driving a Ford Ranger pickup, ran a red light and struck Jerro’s Chevrolet Malibu at Palm Avenue and Tustin Street in Orange about 9:30 p.m. Villagomez kept going and Jerro chased him, the prosecutor said. The two raced on local streets, driving 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. At the time, Jesse and his 14-year-old sister, Yadira, were crossing Glassell to meet with their mother, Leticia. Villagomez’s truck just missed hitting the girl, who jumped backward, 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, the prosecutor said.
The Malibu’s driver’s side mirror struck Jesse as witnesses heard a palpable “thump,” she said. The boy was flung 30 feet, and was pronounced dead just before 10 p.m. at Children’s Hospital of Orange County.
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, Jerome Bradford, argued that his client was pursuing Villagomez to make a citizen’s arrest. He said Jerro had just gotten his car back from the shop after being victimized in another hit-and-run collision.
Swain argued her client was not legally responsible for the boy’s death. She said Villagomez was trying to get away from the enraged Jerro following the minor hit-and-run.
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