Los Banos fatal hit-and-run suspect pleads guilty

May 15, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Valley man accused of killing a National Guard soldier in a hit-and-run crash changes his plea to guilty. But it doesn't guarantee him a lighter sentence.

Jesse Fuentes was not offered a plea deal, but his attorney tells me he chose to change his plea to guilty because he takes responsibility for leaving the scene of the crash. Now the victim's family members are waiting for their chance to speak in court during his sentencing.

Fuentes stood in a Los Banos courtroom and admitted to a deadly hit-and-run crash by changing his plea to guilty. Family members of the victim, Fernando Buenrostro Junior, say it's a moment they've been waiting for since the 18 year old was killed.

"On the first court date he was here, he said not guilty. That really was unbelievable," said Fernando Buenrostro Sr. "Now he's actually made the very first right choice since the beginning. The right choice was for him to stop and see if he was okay."

Police say Fuentes crashed his truck into the National Guard soldier on March 16th and then left the scene. Buenrostro was riding a motorized scooter in this intersection -- where a memorial remains in his honor.

Buenrostro Sr. said, "He was dragged for a quarter of a block, and no effort to try to avoid or even try to see how he was doing, he was just left there."

Officers arrested Fuentes four days after the crash. The district attorney's office charged him with one felony count of hit-and-run causing a death and one misdemeanor for driving on a suspended license.

Deputy District Attorney Travis Colby said, "There was no plea bargain, so what that means is the judge will determine what the appropriate sentence is after hearing form the probation department as well as the families of everyone involved."

Fuentes still faces up to four years in prison, but his attorney says the change of plea is a way of publicly taking responsibility.

Defense Attorney Dominic Falasco said, "I've known this kid for many many years through his family, and he's just, he's very sad about what happened, and he misses his family obviously but he understand the victims miss their family too."

Fuentes' mother says she and her family feel terrible about the crash and want to offer their condolences to the Buenrostro family.

Fuentes is scheduled to be sentenced on June 14th.


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