A man with a prior DUI conviction was sentenced Wednesday to 24 years to life in state prison for causing a fiery crash in South Los Angeles that killed two young children and their father and seriously injured another child in 2018.
Jose Manuel Garcia, 34, of Los Angeles, pleaded no contest last Dec. 3 to three counts of second-degree murder and one count of DUI causing injury within 10 years of another DUI offense.
Garcia ran a red light on April 28, 2018 at the intersection of South Hoover and West 76th streets and struck a minivan carrying a family of five, authorities said.
The minivan burst into flames, and Juan Reynoso, 34, and two of his children — 5-month-old Sebastian and 7-year-old Emma — died at the scene.
Reynoso’s wife and then-9-year-old son, Julian, survived the crash, with the little boy suffering major burn injuries and undergoing numerous surgical procedures since then, according to Deputy District Attorney Yoobin Hernandez.
The boy, who lost all or portions of nine fingers, received a set of prosthetic hands in June 2019 that had been created for him by a team of engineering students from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
“I am the survivor, one of the survivors of this tragedy,” Elizabeth Flores, Reynoso’s widow and the mother of the children, told Superior Court Judge Curtis B. Rappe.
The woman said she and her family were coming back from a birthday party and were just a block away from home when their car was struck by a man who decided to drive under the influence, and that she woke up looking for her baby in the hospital.
“You’re not going to get forgiveness from me,” she said, speaking directly to the defendant. “I need you to hear my voice whenever you’re sitting in silence. … I hope this eats you wherever you are.”
She urged Garcia to never forget the victims’ names and what he did, pledging that she will be there to speak against parole for him.
“You don’t deserve to get out,” she told the defendant. “You’re a piece of trash.”
Flores’ sister, Ana Veloz, said her nephew, who survived the crash, has “scars for the rest of his life,” and urged the defendant to “do something good in life.”
Reynoso’s sister, Crystal Mendoza, noted that she had to go console her grieving sister-in-law in the hospital while her surviving nephew was so badly injured that he was being treated in another hospital.
Mendoza said she wished the defendant “a long life to think about what you’ve done to us.”
Garcia — who had a prior DUI conviction from 2011 — was arrested by investigators from the Los Angeles Police Department’s South Traffic Division the night of the crash. He has remained in jail since then.