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Accused street racer sentenced to prison in death of beloved music teacher killed in Hawthorne crash

Accused street racer sentenced to prison in death of beloved music teacher killed in Hawthorne crash
Benny Golbin, a 36-year-old teacher at Children of Promise Preparatory Academy, was killed when his car was struck by a suspected street racer last year. One of two men charged in his death was sentenced to prison Thursday. (Handout)

A 24-year-old man was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday in connection with a suspected street race in Hawthorne last year that killed a popular elementary school music teacher.

More than a dozen friends and family members of the victim, Benny Golbin, 36, attended the emotional court hearing, including some who detailed how their lives have spiraled since the fatal crash.

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Golbin's wife, Anchesa Bunyasai, said that each time her husband would leave home, she would tell him to drive safely, even though in decades of driving, he had never had a traffic ticket. She said she wonders whether those words meant "anything at all" to the defendants in the case.

"To lose a good soul like that to a senseless car accident is demoralizing," Bunyasai said.

She spoke before Alfredo Perez Davila was sentenced on a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter. Originally, he faced one count each of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter and engaging in a speed contest, according to prosecutors.

Last week, Davila agreed to plead no contest to the lesser charge.

He and Anthony Leon Holley, 41, were accused of racing each other — the former in a silver Chevrolet Cobalt and the latter in a red Camaro — northbound along Crenshaw Boulevard on Jan. 15, 2016, when the collision occurred.

Authorities said at the time that Davila lost control of the Cobalt and swerved across several lanes of traffic before striking the center median and sailing airborne into southbound traffic.

The Cobalt slammed into a Honda CR-V, instantly killing Golbin. The music instructor, who played alto saxophone, was driving from his job at Children of Promise Preparatory Academy in Inglewood to teach a class in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District.

The Cobalt rolled over Golbin's car, which was ripped apart in the impact. The Cobalt landed upright, and parts of its transmission were found in Golbin's vehicle because of the catastrophic force, police said at the time.

Despite his car being badly damaged, Davila was not injured and was arrested at the scene, police said.

The Camaro continued driving, but Holley turned himself in later. Holley pleaded no contest to a felony hit-and-run charge as part of a plea deal in which the count would be reduced to a misdemeanor if he agreed to testify against Davila or his testimony became unnecessary.

Holley, who previously served more than three months in jail, is scheduled to be sentenced to probation on July 25, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Eugene Hanrahan.

In addition to his classes at Children of Promise, Golbin taught woodwind ensembles at elementary schools in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, as well as private and group lessons at AMUSE, a music center in Rolling Hills Estates.

Those who knew him described him as a beloved teacher who was irreplaceable.

At Thursday's hearing, Golbin's sister, Carli Golbin, detailed how she had to tell her young children, then 4 and 2, what had happened to their uncle and that sometimes bad things happen to good people.

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"My grief over losing him is a life sentence that will never go away," she said.

A professional saxophonist who performed at home and abroad for more than 15 years, Golbin recorded a solo jazz album and a holiday album. He had nearly finished recording his first album of contemporary music.

Hugh Von Kleist, a friend of Golbin's for more than 10 years, called the actions of the defendants and their sentences "a joke" and encouraged Davila to raise awareness about the dangers of street racing.

"A car is a weapon," he said. "It is very heavy. And it is very fast."

As Golbin's mother, Sheri Kessel, also encouraged Davila to try to raise awareness about deadly street racing, he nodded his head in agreement.

"This is the nightmare that can happen," she said.

Staff writer Hailey Branson-Potts contributed to this report.

Twitter: @NicoleSantaCruz

UPDATES:

6:05 p.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from Hugh Von Kleist, a friend of Golbin.

1:25 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details about the charges that Davila originally faced and Holley's plea.

This article was originally published at 12:20 p.m.

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