Driver faces murder charges for deaths in police chase

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Three counts of second-degree murder were filed Dec. 4 against the driver of a truck that overturned during a chase by U.S. Border Patrol agents and killed three undocumented immigrants in Boulevard.

The chase occurred Nov. 29 after Luis Alberto Virgen, 21, refused to pull over after Border Patrol agents attempted to stop the vehicle in East County.

Virgen was driving recklessly, weaving in and out of traffic on Interstate 8 from Buckman Springs Road. A spike strip was placed on the road, and the truck ran over it while it was raining.

Three counts of second-degree murder were filed Dec. 4 against the driver of a truck that overturned during a chase by U.S. Border Patrol agents and killed three undocumented immigrants in Boulevard.

The chase occurred Nov. 29 after Luis Alberto Virgen, 21, refused to pull over after Border Patrol agents attempted to stop the vehicle in East County.

Virgen was driving recklessly, weaving in and out of traffic on Interstate 8 from Buckman Springs Road. A spike strip was placed on the road, and the truck ran over it while it was raining.

The vehicle overturned, ejecting 10 people. Erika Gonzalez-Cardoso, 38, was killed from multiple blunt force injuries, according to the San Diego County medical examiner’s office.

A 34-year-old man also died from blunt force injuries, but the medical examiner’s office has not released the name. Another man, 22, also died, but his relatives could also not be reached by the medical examiner’s office.

Virgen appeared Dec. 4 before El Cajon Superior Court Judge Robert Amador and the arraignment was re-set for Dec. 18 while he looks for an attorney. Amador set bail at $3 million and Virgen remains in jail.

Deputy District Attorney Clayton Carr told reporters the murder charges were filed because “the defendant acted with conscious disregard for life.”

Virgen is also charged with three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter and seven counts of reckless driving causing injuries. The surviving immigrants in the truck were also arrested and some of them may be witnesses in the case.

Alpine man given life sentence for killing of baby

An Alpine man was sentenced Dec. 5 to 25 years to life in prison for killing his girlfriend’s 19-month-old son in 2016 who had a skull fracture.

Brett Brown, 32, was convicted by a jury Sept. 12 of second-degree murder of Orlando Lucas and assault upon a child in the Jan. 11, 2016, death.

El Cajon Superior Court Judge John Thompson imposed 25 years to life on the assault conviction, and the 15 years to life sentence for murder will run concurrent.

Thompson fined Brown $10,294 and ordered him to pay $162 for counseling costs for one of the children who lived with Brown and Renee Fournier, his ex-girlfriend.

“Today I would like to apologize,” said Brown to three members of the victim’s family in the audience. “I accept responsibility for what happened. Every day I wish I could change what happened. So much has been lost.”

A second trial for Brown was set for Feb. 19 on an unrelated animal cruelty incident in which he is alleged to have injured his pet Chihuahua. Dried dog blood was found in his apartment, but the pet could not be found. He has pleaded not guilty.

Fournier, 30, herself pleaded guilty to child endangerment and was placed on four years probation by Judge Jeff Fraser on Oct. 9. She was ordered to attend a 52-week class on child rearing.

Fournier testified against Brown Sept. 7 in his murder trial. Her conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor.

Fournier met Brown on a dating website in May, 2015, and moved into his Alpine apartment on Arnold Way with her two children. Brown was in the Navy and on temporary leave so he served as a babysitter.

Deputy District Attorney Chantal de Mauregne argued that Brown was “hung over” when he took care of the boy and “smashed his head against a hard surface.”

She told jurors to “hold him accountable for what he did to that little boy.”

Brown’s attorney, Stephen Cline, argued to jurors the death was a tragic accident when he slipped and fell while carrying Lucas and a plate of food.

Cline said the boy suffered a skull fracture and other broken bones because Brown, weighing 220 pounds, fell on him. He asked jurors for acquittal, saying he had no time to react to stop his fall.

De Mauregne noted that Brown did not tell any responding medical personnel or sheriff’s deputies about him falling down on top of the boy. Instead, he said that boy was jumping up and down on the couch and fell.