Driver convicted in fatal Merced County hit and run

05/15/2013 4:06 PM

05/15/2013 4:29 PM

A 23-year-old Los Banos man pled guilty Wednesday to killing an Army reservist in a hit-and-run crash in March.

Jesse Ryan Fuentes stood up in court in a green-striped jumpsuit and was asked by Judge Harry Jacobs if he wanted to change his plea from not guilty to guilty. Fuentes’ response: "Yes sir."

Fuentes pled guilty to felony hit and run causing death and misdemeanor driving on a suspended license. He will be sentenced June 14 and could receive a maximum of four years in prison. Fernando Buenrostro Jr., 18, was killed when he was hit by a pickup truck while riding a motorized scooter near Cardinal Street and Fairmont Drive on March 16. Fuentes, who was driving the truck, did not stop and was found and arrested by police four days later when his father was spotted driving the damaged vehicle on Mercey Springs Road.

The plea was not an agreement with prosecutors, and Judge Jacobs will determine Fuentes' sentence. Fernando Buenrostro Sr., the victim's father, said he is satisfied with Fuentes pleading guilty.

"It's the first right thing he's done," Buenrostro said.

He said he hopes Fuentes receives the maximum sentence for the sake of the grieving Buenrostro family members.

"He dragged my son for a block. My son didn’t have a second chance in this case,(Hopefully) maximum will give some comfort," Buenrostro said.

Assistant District Attorney Travis Colby said each case involving death is unique so there is not a typical or expected outcome. However, he said, he’s pleased that Fuentes changed his plea.

"There were two charges and he pled guilty to every charge, I think that's appropriate," Colby said.

The Merced County Probation Department will review Fuentes' case and make a sentencing recommendation to the judge.

Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 388-6563 or by email at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com.

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