Sentencing delayed in fatal hit-and-run

mgaytan@losbanosenterprise.comAugust 5, 2013 

GENE LIEB/glieb@losbanosenterprise.com Jesse Ryan Fuentes, 23, of Los Banos stands with his attorney, Dominic Falasco Jr., in court Friday afternoon. They will return to court Aug. 16 at 1:30 p.m. for sentencing. Aug. 2, 2013.

LOS BANOS ENTERPRISE

— The family of an 18-year-old Army reservist killed in a March hit-and-run crash will have to wait at least two more weeks before a judge determines the penalties for the person who fled the scene of the crash.

Judge Harry Jacobs on Friday postponed the sentencing of Jesse Ryan Fuentes, 23, until Aug. 16. Fuentes pleaded guilty in May for leaving the scene of a crash that killed Army reservist Fernando Buenrostro Jr.

Fuentes was convicted of felony hit-and-run causing death and misdemeanor driving on a suspended license.

The judge granted a continuance at the request of Fuentes' attorney Dominic Falasco.

The county's probation department recommended a sentence of one year in jail and five months' probation for Fuentes, according to Deputy District Attorney Travis Colby.

The judge, however, indicated he probably would give Fuentes a sentence different than what the Probation Department's recommended. He didn't reveal Friday what that sentence would be.

As a result, Falasco requested more time to prepare.

Families on both sides filled the courtroom Friday. The Buenrostro family brought a framed photo of the victim to express to the court how much he meant to them — and how the death has impacted their lives.

"We were kind of hoping that it would end today," said the victim's father, Fernando Buenrostro Sr. "But after the district attorney spoke to me and after hearing the judge, it's good that we wait a little bit."

Fuentes' mother, Gina Fuentes, said her son wishes he could turn back time — and she feels badly for the victim's family. Still, Gina Fuentes said the police report states Buenrostro Jr. didn't halt at a posted stop sign.

Colby said there wasn't a stop sign on the road where Fuentes was traveling, although there was a posted stop sign on Buenrostro Jr.'s direction of travel.

However, Colby said the case underlines the importance of stopping after an accident, regardless of the circumstances. "It doesn't matter whose fault it is," Colby said. "If you flee, that's a criminal act."

According to Los Banos police, Buenrostro Jr. was killed when he was hit by Fuentes' pickup truck while riding a motorized scooter near Cardinal Street and Fairmont Drive on March 16. Police said Fuentes left the scene.

Four days later, Fuentes' father was spotted driving a damaged pickup on Mercey Springs Road, which led to the defendant's arrest.

Fuentes could receive a maximum of four years in prison.

Los Banos Enterprise reporter Marina Gaytan can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or mgaytan@losbanosenterprise.com.

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