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Driver Found Guilty in 2 Auto Deaths

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 19-year-old Arleta man was convicted Friday of vehicular manslaughter for driving drunk and causing an accident that killed two people and injured nine others.

A Van Nuys Superior Court jury found David Solis Sahagun guilty of two counts each of vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol in the Oct. 8, 1988, crash that killed Essie Sutton and Ramiro Juarez. The injured included three of Sutton’s children, her nephew and cousin.

Judge Raymond Mireles set sentencing for May 14. Sahagun could receive a maximum sentence of 12 years, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Dver.

Sahagun was traveling 75 to 80 m.p.h. north on Arleta Avenue about 2:30 a.m. when he ran a red light and struck the passenger side of a car being driven east on Terra Bella Street by Frank White, 23, of Pacoima, Dver said.

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Sutton, 38, of Pacoima, was one of six passengers thrown from White’s car. She was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.

Juarez, 18, of Arleta, a passenger in Sahagun’s car, died several days later in a local hospital after being on life-support systems.

Sahagun and two passengers in his car, and White and five passengers in his car suffered injuries ranging from serious to minor, Dver said. One woman suffered a miscarriage after the crash, he said.

Sahagun’s attorney, H. Russell Halpern, did not dispute that Sahagun caused the crash but contended that Sahagun was driving fast because he was being pursued by gang members.

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Dver agreed that Sahagun was being chased. Dver said, however, that Sahagun was being pursued by a group of people at whom he had earlier shouted obscenities and thrown bottles.

Sahagun admitted to friends that he had taken LSD and smoked marijuana the night of the crash, Dver said. Sahagun’s blood-alcohol level after the crash was measured at 0.16%, twice the present standard required to prove driving under the influence, Dver said.


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