UPDATE: Francis Hernandez
HERNANDEZ GUILTY ON ALL CHARGES
excerpts from an article by Carlos Illescas – The Denver Post
CENTENNIAL — Arapahoe County jurors today returned guilty verdicts in 18 criminal charges against Francis Hernandez, the man accused of causing a car accident that killed three people in 2008.
Hernandez was charged with 19 criminal counts, including vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident involving death, and child abuse resulting in death related to the deadly crash at an Aurora Baskin-Robbins shop.
After the verdict, Arapahoe County District Court Judge John Wheeler found Hernandez guilty of the 19th charge, driving while under restraint, in a trial before the court.
Hernandez faces more than 100 years in prison if Wheeler sentences him to consecutive terms on April 5.
“This guy is guilty. This guy is a baby killer,” said Marat Kudlis, father of 3-year-old Marten Kudlis, who was killed in the crash. “He should be where he is.”
The verdict was read just after 10:30 a.m. Jurors received the case at about 2:30 p.m. Monday and deliberated for less than four hours.
After the verdict, jurors leaving the courthouse declined to comment. Defense attorneys also left the courtroom without talking to the media, but an appeal can be expected.
Almost a dozen Arapahoe County sheriff’s deputies were in the courtroom for the verdict, as were Hernandez’s mother-in-law Rosa Avelar, and his two daughters, Natalie, 2, and Destiny, 4.
“He was at fault, but it wasn’t all his fault,” Avelar said, referring to reports that the driver of the truck Hernandez hit with his Chevy Suburban was high on methamphetamines and crossed a double-yellow line as she made a left turn to enter a strip mall on South Havana Street on Sept. 4, 2008.
Her pickup careened into a Baskin-Robbins store, killing Guntharp, 49, and her passenger, Debra Serecky, 51. Marten Kudlis was in the ice cream shop with his mother.
“Justice has served the families of the victims in this case,” prosecutor Karen Pearson said. “His behavior was extremely reckless and a jury that was the case.”
Throughout the trial, defense attorneys attempted to plant reasonable doubt by focusing on mistakes made by Aurora traffic investigators. Defense attorney Chris Baumann said the jury could not trust the word of lead traffic detective Johnny Lee, a “golden boy” with little investigative experience who was on the police department fast track.
Lee testified last week that he provided “inaccurate evidence” to the court. Specifically, he said he accidentally deleted the original arrest affidavit then re-entered it. But he failed to include that one witness said he saw two people inside Hernandez’s Chevy Suburban after the accident.
The defense is saying that Hernandez’s cousin, who was shot and killed last year, was also inside the Suburban and could have been the driver. Prosecutors say Hernandez was the driver and lone occupant.
“Everything was viewed from a distorted prism,” Baumann said. “Detective Lee is your filter in this case and how can you trust him?”
Baumann said police never considered the possibility of another driver and never tried to interview Hernandez’s cousin, Christian Hernandez, before he died. They never searched Francis Hernandez’s vehicle for other DNA. Francis Hernandez’s blood was found on the driver’s side air bag.
In a written statement, the Aurora Police Department said it is conducting an internal review into the actions of Lee and the overall investigation.
Hernandez moved here with his parents from Guatemala when he was a boy and was in this country illegally. He had been arrested for numerous traffic offenses and other violations, but authorities failed to deport him.
The Kudlis has filed a civil lawsuit against Hernandez, the Guntharp family and the agencies that let Hernandez slip through the cracks.
Guntharp had high levels of methamphetamine in her system when Hernandez crashed into her pickup, medical investigators said.
Many thanks to lili for making this update possible. If it wasn’t for your offensive, cruel, racist and downright nasty comments under the original Francis Hernandez story, I may not have started digging for the status of Franny’s case, and we may never have found out about his conviction.
Next time you want to complain about our treatment of one of criminals we feature here on PYSIH, try acting like a civilized person instead of a street thug. You actually had a legitimate point about Patricia Guntharp’s drug use, and I would have liked to debate you about that, but your agenda got lost in all the attitude you brought to the table.
I’m glad the jury was able to see through the smoke and mirrors defense that Hernandez’s lawyers tried to pull off. When you have a client who is so obviously guilty, the best an attorney can do, it seems to me, is to discredit the police and blame as many others as possible, no matter how unworkable or far-fetched your theories have to be. It definitely helps if the other people you are blaming are dead and unable to defend themselves.
For instance, Hernandez’s defense team hung a lot of importance on the fact the Patricia Guntharp was high on Methamphetamine at the time of the crash, but offered no evidence of how she actually did anything to cause the accident. They hoped the jury would fill in those blanks for them I guess.
They also tried to say that Francis Hernandez wasn’t alone in the Ford Explorer on that fateful day, and that his cousin, Christian Hernandez, was the real driver. Unfortunately, Christian had been murdered a year or so after the crash, so nobody could ask him, and DNA tests of blood found on the SUV’s air bag determined it belonged to Francis.
Now it’s just a matter of how badly the judge wants to punish Francis Hernandez. Will he hold him solely accountable for thee deaths, and run all 19 sentences consecutively for a total of over 100 years in prison, or will he find some mitigating circumstances that will cause him to give Francis less time?
We’ll just have to wait and see. But there are other things we can do too. We can do our best to make sure people like lili don’t trash the reputations of the victims and cause unnecessary pain to their families and loved ones. We can’t let that happen. Not here. Not on this website.
Not on my watch.
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