Deadly Hit-and-Run Results in 4-Year Sentence

FRESNO, Calif.

The defendant killed four men, but his sentence was just four years.

Judge Jon Nick Kapetan was visibly upset about the case, but there wasn't anything he could do. /*Hernesto Escalante*/ made a plea deal that meant he'd get a four-year sentence for killing four people, then leaving the scene of the accident, without helping the sole survivor.

When Escalante's tomato truck crashed into a car near Huron, it sheared the roof right off the sedan and instantly killed four men.

Concepcion Lopez survived the accident because she was sleeping in the back seat. She woke up to a horrifying scene: her husband, her brother and two other relatives were dead. Then she saw the other driver, Hernesto Escalante.

"Instead of helping me, he ran away, seeing that I was there in the accident," said Lopez.

A witness says Escalante stopped, then got back in his truck. Minutes later, he drove past the scene again after switching out trucks.

In court Wednesday, the victims' family members tearfully pleaded for a harsh sentence against Escalante.

"He killed my whole family and almost killed me," said Lopez.

"Tomorrow, when their children grow, they're going to ask what happened to their fathers," said Sonia Nunez, whose husband died in the accident. "Right now, they're too young to explain, but at least we would be able to tell him justice was served."

But prosecutors decided they couldn't prove gross negligence by Escalante. They settled for a plea deal on four misdemeanor manslaughter convictions and one felony hit and run.

The sentence for four deaths?

Four years.

"In their letters, the family asks God and this court that justice is served," said Judge Kapetan. "I don't think justice is going to be served in this court. As to God, I don't know what He's going to do."

The prosecutor in the case read a few letters from a few of the victims' family members in El Salvador. One of them, from a 7-year-old who lost her father, said it makes her cry when she has to draw her family for school. She used to draw four people, but now she can't include her father.

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