Driver Pleads Guilty in Crash That Killed 2 Students

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Palmdale man pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of two high school students whose car he broadsided in Mission Hills while fleeing from police in his pickup truck.

Ray Vargas Servin, 22, also agreed to a prison term of 20 years to life, Deputy Dist. Atty. Shellie Samuels said. Servin will be sentenced Oct. 17 in Van Nuys Superior Court, Samuels said. Had he been convicted in a jury trial that was scheduled to begin Wednesday, he could have received a sentence of 36 years to life.

Servin, who on Tuesday listened in court to a 20-minute tape-recorded confession he made to police shortly after the crash, entered the plea Wednesday morning after consulting with his attorney, William M. Thornbury.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped a charge of causing death while evading police, for which he could have received an additional eight-month sentence.

Servin's brother, Jose Servin, 25, of Palmdale, said outside the court Wednesday that his brother deeply regrets causing the crash.

"My brother says if he could give his life for them to come back, he would," Jose Servin said. "But it's God's hand. I pray for the families."

Samuels said that despite the plea agreement, Servin will receive the same sentence her office would have requested in the event of a jury conviction. She said she would have asked that the murder counts, which each carry a maximum sentence of 15 years, be served concurrently, and that he receive an additional five years because he was on parole for a robbery conviction at the time of the crash.

"All of us feel it was just an outrageously reckless act," Samuels said. "But it wasn't intentional. It's a tragic case."

On June 1, Servin fired two or three shots with a pistol into the air during a fight outside a residence and then fled from a pursuing San Fernando police officer. He later told police that he fired the shots to scare off a man who had pointed a shotgun at him.

After running three stop signs, Servin ran a red light at Chatsworth Drive and Laurel Canyon Boulevard and struck a car carrying three students returning from a high school football game. Aracely Hernandez, 18, of San Fernando and Uriel Fernandez, 16, of Pacoima were killed. The third occupant, Juan Melendrez, 16, was hospitalized with minor injuries.

Servin ran away after the crash and hid in bushes, but police found him a short time later. A .38-caliber revolver was found under the pickup's dashboard.

Servin said he drank more than 18 cans of beer in the five hours before the 9:10 p.m. crash and did not see the red light at the intersection.

He told detectives that he tried to flee because he did not want to return to prison. Servin had been released on parole less than a year earlier after serving terms for robbery and joy riding.

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