Two young men who caused a fatal collision that killed a bicyclist in Rancho Mirage pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count each of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and were immediately sentenced to two years probation in lieu of jail time.
Luis Armando Castaneda, 23, and Alex Isidro Quiroz, 24, were arrested almost a year after 32-year-old Cathedral City resident William Campbell was killed while riding his bike in December 2018. Authorities alleged Campbell was fatally struck while the pair were illegally street racing, but prosecutors never filed charges to that effect.
Quiroz additionally faced a sentence-enhancing allegation of fleeing the scene of a crime. Both men pleaded guilty Wednesday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio and not as part of a deal with prosecutors.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Burke Strunsky initially sentenced Castaneda to six years in state prison, and Quiroz to 11 years in a state facility, but suspended the sentence in lieu of formal probation. Neither defendant had any prior documented felony convictions in Riverside County.
The probation terms come with a list of conditions, and failure to adhere to any one of them could land the young men in prison, according to Riverside County District Attorney’s Office spokesman John Hall.
Both men must serve 180 days in a Riverside County sheriff’s work release program. They must also give monthly presentations to high school students or other young people “about the dangers of reckless driving with particular emphasis on being cautious while sharing the road with cyclists,” Hall said.
The duo will also loose their driver licenses for the two years they are on probation, and must complete 120 hours of community service at the direction of The Desert Bicycle Club building bicycle paths in the Coachella Valley, Hall said.
The fatal crash occurred at about 6:50 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2018, on eastbound Ramon Road, east of Rattler Road, as Campbell rode in the bicycle lane.
A witness told authorities that the duo appeared to be street racing, according to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant prepared by sheriff’s Investigator Nicolas Bazanos.
The document said tire marks at the scene later proved that Castaneda — who allegedly admitted to authorities he hit the cyclist — was traveling between 94 to 98 mph at the time of the crash.
When the collision occurred, the men were driving side-by-side as Quiroz attempted to move into the lane occupied by Castaneda, spurring Castaneda to maneuver his car to his right into the bicycle lane to avoid a collision, according to the declaration, which said Castaneda’s car then struck the cyclist.
Campbell was launched almost 150 feet forward. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Quiroz then allegedly continued on Ramon Road onto Interstate 10, where he was followed by a witness who alerted authorities. A California Highway Patrol officer pulled him over in Indio, where Quiroz agreed to be voluntarily transported to the Palm Desert sheriff’s station for questioning.
At the station, Quiroz admitted to driving between 60 and 70 mph and making an unsafe lane change, according to court papers.
The posted speed limit on that stretch of Ramon Road is 55 mph.
During Castaneda’s interview with sheriff’s investigators, he denied racing at the time of the crash, telling investigators he was attempting to get away from Quiroz, who he said was “driving stupid,” according to the declaration prepared by Bazanos.
“Castaneda’s speed, whether he was racing Quiroz or not, was negligent and (a) factor in Campbell’s death,” the document said.