First evidence against ex-Fresno coach accused in deadly DUI

February 26, 2013 12:15:55 AM PST
The man accused of driving drunk and killing a Fresno boy last summer has now heard the evidence against him for the first time.

Loren LeBeau, 42, went from Central High basketball coach to felony defendant. He's charged with vehicular manslaughter and other crimes in connection with the death of 7-year-old Donovan Maldonado.

The case almost didn't make it to a preliminary hearing Monday. LeBeau told Action News he wants to take responsibility for what happened and his attorney said he was willing to make a plea deal. But the deal never came together, despite an appearance by the Maldonado family.

Jesse Maldonado sat in his wheelchair at the Fresno County courthouse, hoping his first appearance could be his last in the case against the man accused of killing his 7-year-old son.

LeBeau admitted in court his blood alcohol content was over the legal limit -- at .11 -- when he crashed into the bikes carrying Donovan, Jesse, and 21-month-old Bella Maldonado.

As police computed his blood alcohol content a couple hours later, LeBeau was already concerned with the damage he may have done.

"He had asked me if the boy was okay," said Fresno police officer Eric Castillo.

"And then, did he say that to you more than once?" asked prosecutor Dennis Verzoso.

"He said it to me throughout the investigation approximately six to eight times," Castillo said.

But prosecutors say LeBeau's concern didn't come soon enough. He hit the Maldonados as they crossed Shepherd on the Sugar Pine Trail last July. Witnesses said they heard tires screech very briefly, then saw bodies flying in the air.

Nobody could find Donovan, though, until his mother saw LeBeau's car turn onto Perrin a couple hundred yards away.

"The vehicle was at Shepherd, again, making a right turn or northbound turn onto Perrin from Shepherd, as it did so, she observed Donovan's body come out from underneath the vehicle," said Fresno police officer Jeremy Maffei.

Donovan suffered massive injuries and died. His father and little sister survived major injuries.

LeBeau returned to the scene about 10 minutes later. He's now lost his job and told Action News he obviously made a mistake he'll have to live with for the rest of his life.

But his attorney pointed out he was not speeding, it was a dark night, and a street light was out right near the scene of the collision. He added that the Maldonados could've been more visible.

"Neither of the bikes had headlights [and] there was a sticker on the father's bicycle that said 'Do not drive at night without a light,' said attorney Jeff Hammerschmidt, who is representing LeBeau.

LeBeau's preliminary hearing continues Tuesday.

The Maldonados didn't have to be there Monday, but they'd have to appear if the case goes to trial, at which time LeBeau could face as long as 24 years in prison.

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