Double trouble for hit-and-run suspect in Fresno veteran death

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Although police say he confessed to causing the crash that killed an 83-year-old veteran in a wheelchair, a Fresno man pleaded not guilty Tuesday. 21-year-old Edgar Rueda is charged with manslaughter and hit-and-run.

Rueda's been in jail for five days now and hasn't been able to bail out. Prosecutors will ask a judge to raise his bail even higher next week because of his criminal history. That history could also mean double trouble when it comes times for punishment.

Edgar Rueda never learned his lesson, according to police, and Jose Rodriguez's family is left to pick up the pieces. Parts of the 83-year-old's wheelchair scattered all over the intersection where Rueda hit him last Monday. Investigators say Rueda drove away -- a crime in and of itself -- and also proof of a bigger crime.

"Any time someone runs from the scene of a crime is evidence of guilt," ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi said. "That will be something that will come into the evidence before the jury."

Rueda pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter, hit and run causing death, and reckless driving. A judge wouldn't let us get video from the courtroom, but Capozzi says the scene may be more important. Skid marks there may be the key to the case. Police believe they prove Rueda was driving too fast.

"He's speeding with people in the area," Capozzi said. "That is going to show a wanton disregard for the safety of others."

And it wouldn't be Rueda's first time. Just three weeks before the deadly crash, on June 30, he was convicted of reckless driving.

"It's unfortunate he was out on the streets three weeks after he had pled guilty," Capozzi said. "But in those types of cases, it's generally not a jail type case."

Rueda can expect to serve time for this crime, if he's convicted. Because he also has a felony strike from a juvenile conviction, he could get double the punishment -- more than 13 years in prison. Rodriguez's family would give a thumbs-up to that.

The victim's granddaughters were in court Tuesday morning. They tell Action News Rodriguez is now on the way to Arizona so he can be buried alongside his wife. Funeral and burial services are coming up this weekend.

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