Sunland Man Who Killed 3 With Car Is Sentenced to 16 Years

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Times Staff Writer

A Sunland man was sentenced Friday to 16 years to life in state prison for running down and killing two men and a woman by racing his automobile into a crowd in 1980.

Jerry de la Cruz, 27, was sentenced on three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon. The charges stemmed from an incident that followed a scuffle between De la Cruz and a brother of his girlfriend at a party in Sunland.

Los Angeles police said De la Cruz was asked to leave a party, then drove off in his car, made a U-turn and slammed into a group of six people standing at the site of the party.


He was driving about 50 m.p.h. when he hit and killed Robert Cravens, 40; Sheri Manna, 30, and Beverlee Bobb, 19, and injured three others, police said. De la Cruz surrendered to police the following day.

The defendant, a former dog trainer, was first convicted in March, 1982. But a state appellate court subsequently overturned the conviction, saying that the trial judge had made errors in ruling on the admissibility of evidence.

De la Cruz was retried last November and convicted for a second time. On Friday, Judge Eli Chernow sentenced the defendant on six separate counts, which carry three prison terms of 16 years to life, but stipulated that De la Cruz serve the terms concurrently.

De la Cruz will be eligible for parole after completing half the term. Because he has already been in custody for more than four years, he could be released from prison by 1987 because of good behavior, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Simon Hiller.