Tragic DUI Crash Leaves Mother and Daughter Devastated, Culprit Sentenced to 11 Years

Tragic DUI Crash Leaves Mother and Daughter Devastated, Culprit Sentenced to 11 Years

In a heart-wrenching tragedy that unfolded on January 25, 2023, a drunk driver’s actions shattered the lives of Erika Lopez and her family. The devastating crash claimed the lives of her husband, Alberto Vicente Lopez, and their 10-year-old daughter, Lucero, leaving Erika and their son, Anebel, to bear the weight of unimaginable loss. Erika, now a mother of three, including her 1-year-old daughter Estrellita, has been waiting for justice and closure for over a year.

Inside a Santa Ana courtroom, Mario Armando Paz Jr. pleaded guilty to three felony counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and two felony counts related to driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury. Judge Larry Yellin, acknowledging Paz’s early acceptance of responsibility, sentenced him to 11 years in state prison, a reduced term compared to what he might have faced if found guilty by a jury.

Erika, clutching onto the memories of her husband and daughter, expressed her opposition to the reduced sentence, tearfully stating that it would not bring back her loved ones. Judge Yellin empathized with her pain, acknowledging that no sentence could ever undo the tragedy that had befallen her family.

The memories of that fateful day remain etched in Erika’s mind. After leaving their church in Yorba Linda, the family was joyfully making their way home when a sedan driven by Paz crashed into their van at the intersection of Melrose Street and Orangethorpe Avenue in Placentia. The impact was so severe that Alberto was thrown from the vehicle and died instantly, along with another church member. Lucero was rushed to a children’s hospital but succumbed to her injuries. Three other passengers sustained serious injuries and were taken to UCI Medical Center for treatment.

Paz, then 24 years old, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. His blood alcohol level was found to be .14, significantly higher than the legal limit. Prior to the trial, Placentia Sgt. Frank Garza noted Paz’s lack of remorse and concern only for his personal belongings left in the vehicle.

During the court proceedings, Paz quietly acknowledged the terms of his guilty plea and sentence, while Erika delivered her emotional statement. Deputy Dist. Atty. Brian Orue expressed opposition to the 11-year term, hoping that Paz would learn from this tragedy and never return to the courtroom.

Author: CrimeDoor

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