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Driver agrees to plea deal in death of passengers

The driver of a vehicle who was fleeing the U.S. Border Patrol in Boulevard on Nov. 29 pleaded guilty on Sept. 30 to three counts of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of three people in his truck.

Deputy District Attorney Clayton Carr said Luis Alberto Virgen, 22, faces “a stipulated prison sentence of 20 years and eight months” as part of the plea agreement.

Carr said Virgen’s attorney won’t be able to argue for a lesser sentence. Virgen also pleaded guilty to six felony counts of reckless driving with serious bodily injury to other passengers and a misdemeanor count of reckless driving.

Three counts of second-degree murder were dismissed by El Cajon Superior Court Judge Robert Amador, who set sentencing for Dec. 9.

The guilty pleas to the reckless driving charges reflect injuries to seven of the passengers who survived after the truck overturned on Crestwood Road on a dirt and rock embankment.

Killed were Erika Gonzalez-Cardoso, 38, Celerino Jimenez-Flores, 34, and Jorge Garcia-Isordia, 22. They were believed to be undocumented immigrants as were the other seven passengers.

A motorist at the June 3 preliminary hearing testified he saw Virgen’s truck speeding at approximately 100 mph on Interstate 8 in the rain and was followed by Border Patrol agents.

Virgen refused to pull over after Border Patrol agents attempted to stop his vehicle after it got onto Interstate 8 from Buckman Springs Road.

Virgen was weaving in and out of traffic, at speeds up to 100 mph at times, with the Border Patrol following. A spike strip was placed on the road and his truck drove over it while it was raining.

Virgen is a U.S. citizen who was living in Tijuana at the time. He remains in jail on $3 million bail.

Frying pan murder goes to trial

Brad Masaru Payton was ordered to stand trial on Oct. 3 for murder in the death of another man at a group home who was killed by repeated blows to the head with a frying pan.

Six witnesses testified in the preliminary hearing of the El Cajon resident, 26, who is charged with killing Michael McCarthy on Dec. 20, 2018 in a group home.

El Cajon Superior Court Judge Patricia Cookson ordered Payton to next appear in court on Oct. 17 to set a trial date. Payton has pleaded not guilty.

Payton is accused of hitting McCarthy over the head with a frying pan, which is being classified as a deadly weapon. The attack was discovered at 4:50 a.m. in the 1200 block of Naranca Avenue.

Heartland Fire paramedics responded to the scene and transported the victim to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Payton lived at the same facility, but in a different room than McCarthy. He was also arrested there and remains in jail on $2 million bail.

Case of 2012 murder approaches preliminary hearings

Waverly James, 49, has pleaded not guilty to the 2012 murder of Stanford Roy Johnson, 52, of Spring Valley.

James was arrested in New York on Sept. 20 on a warrant and was extradited here. An El Cajon Superior Court judge set a Dec. 2 readiness hearing and a preliminary hearing will be set that day.

The Sheriff’s department said they received a call for a welfare check at 6 a.m. on Dec. 6, 2012 at a residence in the 9000 block of Lemon Street. A rear door was open and they found that Johnson had been stabbed to death.

James is also charged with burglary and remains in the central jail without bail. Authorities have not said if James was acquainted with Johnson.

Source: East County Californian

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