Fresno family closer to justice in fatal hit-run

FRESNO, Calif.

Emotions ran high in court as two co-defendants awaited sentencing for a crime that resulted in the death of a Fresno man. But family members of the victim were disappointed that only one of the men was sentenced.

Sabrina Gray said in court, "He was the most wonderful man, father, husband, uncle."

Gray expressed grief inside a Fresno County courtroom over the loss of her uncle, 50-year-old Heliodoro Ruvalcaba.

Curtis Travis, 35, and Stephen Stowers, 24, were in a stolen pickup when they ran a red light and fatally struck Ruvalcaba in January of 2011.

Gray said, "A very important life was taken, and I just hope you guys learn from this experience, because that's what my uncle would want."

Before the crash, both men ransacked an apartment and snatched keys to the 'getaway' pickup. Stowers was convicted of robbery and auto theft by a jury in October. But the murder charge against him ended with a hung jury.

Judge Kent Hamlin said, "This could very easily been a sentence of life without the possibility of parole today. And for whatever reason, you should be thankful that's not today's outcome."

Wednesday morning, the judge gave Stowers the maximum sentence of six years, eight months. But Travis' punishment will be much greater since he was the driver. He was convicted of murder and faces life without the possibility of parole.

His sentencing was delayed however. His attorney filed a motion for a retrial, but that was denied.

"The jury's verdict is well supported by the evidence," Judge Kent Hamlin said. "Motion for new trial is denied."

This rejection brought tears to Travis and his family.

The mother of Travis, Belinda Gonzales told Action News, "Very emotional, I really feel for the victim's family, I know how they're hurting."

For now, family members of the victim say they're finding some comfort knowing they're that much closer to justice.

Prosecutor Steve Wright said, "Obviously nothing can bring back their loved one that was killed but at least there's some light at the end of the tunnel."

And family members will have to return to court in two weeks. Travis will be sentenced on the 21st of December, and faces life without the possibility of parole.

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