Driver sentenced for deaths; car stealer released

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A driver who was fleeing the U.S. Border Patrol and crashed his truck, killing three passengers in East County, was sentenced Feb. 5 to 20 years and eight months in state prison.
Deputy District Attorney Clayton Carr said Luis Alberto Virgen, 22, will have to serve 85% of that term because it involved violent felonies.
“This case is indeed a tragedy,” said El Cajon Superior Court Judge Robert Amador.
Killed were Erika Gonzalez-Cardoso, 38, Celerino Jimenez-Flores, 34, and Jorge Garcia-Isordia, 22. They were believed to be unauthorized immigrants as were the other seven passengers.
The crash occurred Nov. 29, 2018 at 4:30 p.m. while it was raining in Boulevard and Virgen refused to pull over after Border Patrol agents tried to intercept him on Buckman Springs Road.
Virgen began weaving in and out of traffic, and it was estimated he drove at 100 mph. He did drive over a spike strip, and eventually the truck overturned, ejecting 10 people east of Crestwood Road on a dirt and rock embankment.
Virgen pleaded guilty Sept. 30 to three counts of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths, and three counts of second-degree murder were dismissed.
Virgen also pleaded guilty to six felony counts of reckless driving with serious bodily injury to other passengers and a misdemeanor count of reckless driving.
Carr said the guilty pleas to the reckless driving charges reflect injuries to seven of the passengers.
Amador imposed six years for each death to equal 18 years plus two years and eight months for the reckless driving counts. He gave Virgen credit for 497 days already spent in jail.

The family members of the victims submitted letters to the probation department including the widow of Jimenez-Flores. None were present at the sen­tencing.

Virgen is a U.S. citizen who was living in Tijuana at the time.

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A man who stole a sheriff’s pa­trol car in Lemon Grove has been released from jail after serving approximately four months be­hind bars.

El Cajon Superior Court Judge Daniel Lamborn ordered Mat­thew Brian Porter, 44, to pay $1,953.64 to the sheriff’s depart­ment for damages in the Oct. 5 incident.

Another judge sentenced him to one year in jail under terms of three years probation. He was ordered to pay $1,448 in proba­tion costs.

Porter also lost his driver’s license as a result of his guilty plea to auto theft and driving in an opposite lane while evading sheriff’s deputies, according to court records.

The incident happened at 8:52 p.m. when a deputy was unload­ing his patrol car at the end of his shift at the Lemon Grove patrol station. Porter somehow got into the vehicle and drove off with it.

Deputies found it minutes later after someone called 911 to report the abandoned vehicle in the 3500 block of Grove Street in Lemon Grove. Porter was near­by and was detained.

He admitted to taking the ve­hicle and was arrested.

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