A repeat drunken driver who fatally struck a 6-year-old California girl in 2018 has been sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for murder.
Maximino Delgado Lagunas, 56, of Anaheim, had been working as a painter at a construction site in a residential area in the city of Fullerton when he left in his 1990 Toyota 4Runner and struck Grace Aguilar as she played on a nearby sidewalk on Feb. 17, 2018. A toxicology test placed his blood-alcohol level at .22, nearly three times the legal driving limit of .08.
Lagunas had already been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in 2015, which carries a mandatory warning that should the convict drive drunk again and kill someone, he could be charged with murder.
It’s called a Watson advisement, and it’s named after drunken driver Robert Lee Watson. Watson’s 1981 California Supreme Court case established that he could be charged with second-degree murder for a crash that killed driver Penny Maillet and her six-year-old daughter, Michelle Maillet, in Redding, California, in 1979.
In Lagunas’ case, police say he lost control of his car about a block from his job site and drove onto the opposite sidewalk where Grace was playing, then drove back onto the street and struck a parked car. He remained on scene and cooperated with investigators, police said, and has been in jail since his arrest.
Lagunas took his case to trial in June, and a jury convicted him of second-degree murder. Orange County Superior Court Judge Michael A. Leversen sentenced him Friday in Santa Ana.
“Little kids playing on a sidewalk shouldn’t have to worry about being hit and killed by drunk drivers,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a press release.
“Every time someone drives under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they take the risk that they could kill someone,” Spitzer continued. “This time it was a six-year-old girl named Grace who was just playing on the sidewalk.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Jeff Moore prosecuted Lagunas. Lagunas was represented by the office of the Orange County Public Defender.
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