Driver who killed 2 spectators during street race in Chatsworth gets 12 years in prison

The driver who killed two people during an illegal street race in Chatsworth last year was sentenced Monday to 12 years in state prison, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said.

Karen Gary Balyan, 43, of North Hollywood was driving a high-performance Mustang during a nighttime race Feb. 26 near Canoga Avenue and Plummer Street — an area known informally as the Canoga Speedway.

Within seconds of the race's start, Balyan lost control of the vehicle and plowed into dozens of spectators.

Two men watching the race — Eric Siguenza, 26, of Los Angeles and Wilson Thomas Wong, 50, of Torrance — were killed. A third man was seriously injured. Balyan, as well as dozens of spectators, fled.

Balyan pleaded no contest Dec. 22 to two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and admitted to fleeing the scene during the commission of the crime, the district attorney's office said. He also entered a no contest plea to one misdemeanor count of assault with a deadly weapon.

The driver of the other vehicle in the race, Irael Valenzuela, 39, of Los Angeles, was sentenced Monday to one year in jail and five years' formal probation, according to the district attorney's office.

Valenzuela entered a no contest plea Dec. 22 to two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

Valenzuela, who has appeared on the Discovery Channel's street racing show "Street Outlaws," was racing Balyan in a Nissan GTR. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Daniel Feldstern ordered the vehicle destroyed and Valenzuela's driver's license suspended during his probationary period, said Ricardo Santiago, a spokesman for the district attorney's office.

The owner of the Ford Mustang that Balyan was driving, 22-year-old Henry Michael Gevorgyan of Van Nuys, was sentenced to one year in county jail and three years' formal probation, the district attorney's office said.

His driver's license also was suspended, and the judge ordered the Mustang destroyed.

Gevorgyan pleaded no contest Dec. 24 to two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

Police initially identified Gevorgyan as a driver in the race and distributed his photo, which quickly spread across the Internet.

Gevorgyan turned himself in to police days later, but video shot at the race showed that he was not driving the car: He was standing in the middle of the road, flagging the drivers to start the race.

Twitter: @haileybranson

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on January 05, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Street racer gets 12 years - Karen Gary Balyan, 43, killed two spectators at an illegal race in Chatsworth." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe