Driver gets 12 years in Edwards vehicular homicide
EAGLE — Emmanuel Villeda admitted he was drunk when he launched his car off an embankment at 140 mph, crashed and killed Rafael Torres-Ortiz.
For that, and because Villeda was free on bond for three other felony charges in Pueblo when he did it, District Court Judge Russell Granger sentenced Villeda to the maximum, 12 years in state prison, during a hearing Monday.
“Your family is suffering pain because of your decision. The victim’s family is suffering pain because of your decision,” Granger said. “I want to make sure this sentence is as strong in the law as I can make it.”
Oddly, because it’s also a DUI case, Granger is required by law to sentence Villeda to 45 days of useful community service. Granger said he does not have the authority to suspend it, even though Villeda will be in prison.
Torres-Ortiz died and two other men were injured in the crash, brothers Arthur and Travis Valdez. The crash left Travis Valdez paralyzed from the waist down. Villeda and the Valdez brothers were lifelong friends, said Bill Schubert, Villeda’s defense attorney.
‘I am not living’
Torres-Ortiz was 22 years old when his life was snuffed out, born in 1991 and killed June 9.
Torres-Ortiz’ mother, Olga, cried hard as she described the pain that the tragedy has caused her and her family.
“My son was a kind and respected man,” she said. “He was a hard worker with a bright future and was about to be married.”
She said she tried to end her life to be with her dear son.
“I never thought anyone could feel this much pain. I would like to be able to see my son and tell him how much I love him.
“I am not living; I am just existing,” she said.
“I know I made a lot of mistakes and bad decisions. I just want to say I’m sorry. Ms. Ortiz did have a good son,” Villeda said. “I want to apologize for not being a bigger man that night, instead of going along with what happened.”
Bill Schubert, Villeda’s defense attorney, said Villeda takes responsibility but does so with a debilitating brain injury and no clear recollection of the events of that night.
Villeda’s mother, Beatrice, broke down in tears as she apologized to the other families.
“I am also losing a son,” she said.
Ortiz’ grandmother, Maria Espinosa, was emotional as she pointed out that Villeda’s mother can go see her son.
“I will never be able to see my grandson. I can only visit him in the cemetery, and that’s what I do,” Espinosa said. “My daughter goes to his grave and scratches the dirt to try to see her son.”
“With an apology, my grandson will not come back to life.”
Three other felonies in Pueblo
When he caused the crash, Villeda was free on bond for three felony charges in Pueblo, said Joe Kirwan, who prosecuted the case. Those three do not include two juvenile felonies and another two felony convictions as an adult for menacing and criminal impersonation.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen higher criminogenics since I’ve been with the District Attorney’s Office,” Kirwan said.
(Criminogenics is defined as “causing or likely to cause criminal behavior.”)
Instead of going through with a trial, Villeda pleaded guilty to three felonies and a misdemeanor in Eagle County. He now heads back to Pueblo to face those charges.
What villeda did
On June 9, Villeda and the Valdez brothers spent the hours prior to the crash at a Mexican restaurant in Avon, while waiting for Torres-Ortiz to finish his shift. They left the restaurant just before midnight, with Villeda at the wheel of a silver Audi S4.
Around midnight, Villeda managed to reach 140 mph on Red Canyon Estates Road, when the car began skidding near the wastewater treatment plant on the western edge of Edwards.
Villeda blew through a stop sign and the vehicle hit an embankment, vaulting across Hillcrest Drive. It flipped one and a half times before coming to a rest on its wheels.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @torqueandrecoil.
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