Driver sentenced for hit and run; guns back on the street

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About 20 friends, neighbors and family members watched the sentencing Feb. 11 for the hit and run driver who struck and killed letter carrier Kevin Charles Wilson on his bicycle in the Dehesa area of El Cajon.

Most were dismayed that Craig Wendell Nelson, 56, received a prison term of three years and eight months, and not a longer sentence.

Wilson, also 56 and from La Mesa, was struck Jan. 20 on Willow Glen Road near the Singing Hills Golf Course after Nelson’s vehicle veered into the bicycle lane after traveling east on Dehesa Road.

His obituary said he died “while doing what he loved–cycling.”

   Nelson pleaded guilty to hit and run in a traffic fatality and possession of methamphetamine that was found in his Mitsubishi that he abandoned on Sloane Canyon Road when he fled the scene.

  California Highway Patrol officers found the vehicle and Nelson was located hiding in some bushes by a helicopter crew. His blood could not be tested immediately as to whether he was under the influence.

Wilson was a letter carrier for 25 years at the Andrew Jackson Post Office and there were many residents to whom he delivered mail who showed up at the sentencing.

His widow, Nancy Cavanaugh-Wilson, said she hoped the city of El Cajon would allow her to place a memorial at the site near where he was killed.

“He was an amazing man,” Cavanaugh-Wilson told El Cajon Superior Court Judge Robert Amador.

“He loved life, adventure, hiking. He had plans and dreams of traveled when he would have retired,” she said. “My life and my world collapsed when Kevin succumbed to his injuries.”

“He hit Kevin from behind and didn’t have the decency to stop,” said Cavanaugh-Wilson. “I’m getting a life sentence without the love of my life. I’m angry at the whole situation.”

“Kevin, my son, was the focus of my life,” said his mother, Pearl Ellis, who said she had no other living relatives.

“This man, Craig Nelson, has prior arrests. He will be released to drink again, do drugs, and kill again,” said Ellis. “I beg the court to think of the damage this man will do.”

“I’ve known Kevin for the better part of 30 years,” said K.R. Ridge. “He was my postman and he was my friend. He was our own Clark Kent, our Mr. Rogers.”

Deputy District Attorney Mei Owen asked for the maximum sentence of four years and eight months under the plea agreement. His lawyer asked for three years and eight months, saying he has taken responsibility.

Nelson, dressed in blue jail clothes, spoke tearfully, but his words were not understandable.

Amador told the audience that Nelson pleaded guilty very early in the case without other hearings and he received “a discount for accepting responsibility.”

Amador said the DA’s office did not file any charges involving impaired driving. He said the charges only reflect that Nelson fled the scene after the accident.

“This is a terribly tragedy,” said Amador, who described the flight afterwards as “so cold, so callous.”

Addressing Nelson, Amador said: “I hope you never drink again or do drugs again. You have taken away a fine human being. Being sorry is not enough.”

Amador fined him $1,124 and gave him credit for 33 days spent in jail. Nelson, of Julian, has two drug convictions.

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The first female who escaped from the Las Colinas Women’s Detention and Reentry Facility in Santee has finished her 270-day jail term and has been released to a residential treatment program.

Destiny Marie Guns, 23, is on three years probation and was ordered by an El Cajon Superior Court judge to pay $2,188.

She escaped barefoot last April and was captured five days later after the sheriff’s department released her photo to the news media.  She had been in jail for possession of a stolen car. Guns pleaded guilty to escape.