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    Orange County man gets 10 years in prison for DUI crash that killed a Hemet driver
    • March 26, 2024

    MURRIETA — A 55-year-old man who killed a motorist in a driving under the influence head-on collision in Winchester was bound for state prison Monday to serve a 10-year term behind bars after pleading guilty to felony charges.

    Ernest “Sniper” Lugo of Westminster admitted one count each of DUI gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of controlled substances, with a sentence-enhancing great bodily injury allegation, during a status hearing Friday at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.

    Riverside County Superior Court Judge Stephen Gallon imposed the sentence stipulated by the court prior to the plea.

    Lugo fatally injured 65-year-old Jose Montanchez Jr. of Hemet in the Oct. 22, 2023, wreck on Domenigoni Parkway at Alamar Mesa Drive.

    The California Highway Patrol said that Lugo was at the wheel of a 2016 Chevrolet pickup that entered the eastbound lane of Domenigoni while traveling west at an unconfirmed speed about 7:20 p.m. that Sunday.

    “The pickup was going the wrong way,” CHP Officer Jonathan Torres told City News Service at the time. “A 2008 BMW was eastbound on Domenigoni, going the right way, and the pickup collided head-on with the BMW.”

    Montanchez’s BMW and the defendant’s pickup both sustained significant damage. Debris from the impact was hurled onto a Nissan sedan trailing the BMW, but damage to that vehicle was minor, according to Torres.

    County fire paramedics reached the location minutes later and pronounced Montanchez dead at the scene.

    Lugo and his passenger, whose identity was not disclosed, suffered minor injuries and were taken to a regional trauma center for treatment. The defendant was screened for alcohol or drug impairment, and officers verified Lugo had been driving under the influence. He was taken into custody without incident.

    The passenger was treated and released from the hospital.


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    ​ Orange County Register