Teens sentenced for car deaths

Two teens were sentenced in Hood River Circuit Court on Monday for their involvement in the vehicular-related deaths of others.

Both Uriel Lozano, 16, and Samuel Trejo-Rodriguez, 17, pled guilty to adult felony charges that they had violated safe driving practices. Judge Donald Hull ordered them both to prepare 45-minute orations that might warn other youth away from irresponsible behavior behind the wheel.

Lozano was given 180 days in jail for criminally negligent homicide related to the death of his friend, Bismar Guadarrama, in May. His license was revoked for eight years and he was ordered to pay $3,600 in compensatory damages to the victim's family. In addition, he has to complete a drug and alcohol treatment program, finish high school and make a personal appearance quarterly to report on his progress to Hull. He will speak at nine Mid-Columbia high schools to tell other students about what happened to his friend, his emotions about that incident and how it could have been prevented.

"I see three things here that contributed to the death of someone who probably had a bright future, dreams and aspirations: youth, speed and alcohol," said Hull.

According to police reports, Lozano and Bismar were returning to Hood River from a party in the upper valley when they began racing against Alonso Muro, 17, north on Highway 35. The speed of the vehicles reached up to 90 miles per hour, according to police, before Lozano lost control of the car he was driving and crashed into a guardrail just south of Odell a few minutes after midnight on May 20. When the passenger door flew open and the seatbelt failed, Guadarrama was thrown from the vehicle and sustained severe head injuries that caused his death two days later. Lozano received only minor injuries in the wreck and admitted to law enforcement officials that he had consumed three beers that evening.

Muro has been charged with Reckless Driving and is scheduled to enter a plea on Sept. 17. Three other juveniles attending that party have been cited for underage drinking and furnishing alcohol to a minor.

"The reason cops take the time and spend the effort to break up teenage drinking parties is exactly because of cases like this," said Hood River District Attorney John Sewell.

Speed also was a factor in the July 2 hit and run death of Patrick T. Edwards of Hood River. Rodriguez was ordered to serve 45 days in jail, followed by 36 months of probation and 240 hours of community service. In addition, he was given $405 in court fines and fees and instructed to complete his senior year in high school with satisfactory grades. He will deliver a speech to four area high schools to explain his criminal conviction and his drivers license has been taken away for five years.

"I want you to explain to people that negligent acts lead to tragedy," said Hull.

Rodriguez told Hull at his Aug. 27 court appearance that he had been driving down Eugene Street at a high rate of speed just prior to being confronted by Edwards, 50, who resided there, on the evening of June 30. He said that Edwards began to yell and swear at him when he stopped at a friends' house and then physically stood in front of the car as he was attempting to leave the scene. According to witness statements, Rodriguez was traveling between 5-10 miles per hour when he ran into Edwards after attempting to go around him several times. According to police reports, when Edwards fell off the hood of the car he struck his head on the ground and Rodriguez left the scene.

Two days later Edwards died as a result of head injuries received in that fall and Rodriguez was arrested after friends revealed his identity to investigating officers. At the time of the incident, Rodriguez' license was in the process of being suspended on an unrelated DUII charge and, since then, he has opted to participate in a diversion program available to first-time offenders.

"This was a tragic accident and clearly Samuel Trejo-Rodriguez shouldn't have left the scene, but it didn't rise to the level of criminal negligence as defined in the law," said Sewell.

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