A 20-year-old Delhi man this week was sentenced to seven years in prison for a Turlock crash that killed his teenage passenger. The defendant ran away from the wreck and hid from police for more than two months.
Jose Jesus Aguilars sentence was part of a plea deal with prosecutors. In December, he pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, along with an enhancement for running away from the fatal wreck. The Stanislaus County District Attorneys Office dropped a charge of hit-and-run resulting in death.
Taylor Vessel, 18, of Delhi, was Aguilars passenger when the crash occurred Nov. 3, 2012, in the 1200 block of Lander Avenue. She was pronounced dead at the scene after she was partially ejected from the silver Chevrolet Malibu that hit a tree and crashed into a house.
Family members have said Vessel was just starting to come into her own as a student at Merced College. She studied criminology and was trying to decide between a career in criminal justice and crime scene investigation, her mother has told The Modesto Bee.
Days after the wreck, Turlock police reported they had not received much help from people they interviewed in their investigation of the fatal crash. They released security camera photos from a convenience store in hopes of identifying the driver.
Natasha Titsworth, 20, also of Delhi, was arrested several days after Aguilar was taken into custody. She was charged with being an accessory. She has since pleaded no contest and was sentenced this week to 60 days in jail and three years of probation.
Prosecutors said Titsworth, Vessels friend, lied to Turlock police to conceal the drivers identity by claiming her car was stolen before it was involved in the fatal wreck.
Deputy District Attorney Tony Colacito prosecuted the case against Aguilar and Titsworth.
The incident that led to the crash began shortly before 3:30 a.m., when a police officer spotted two cars parked behind a strip mall near Marshall Street and Golden State Boulevard in Turlock. The officer then directed a spotlight at two suspicious cars.
Prosecutors said Aguilar and Vessel got into the Malibu and drove away. Aguilar was behind the wheel. Before the officer turned on his lights and sirens, the Malibu sped up to 100 mph.
The officer followed the car down Golden State Boulevard before turning right on F Street. Prosecutors said the officer caught up to the car on Lander Avenue, where it hit the tree at 50 mph and crashed into the house. Police said nobody inside the home was injured.
Witnesses said the driver ran from the crash site.
Investigators found receipts in the car and other information that eventually led to the security camera footage that pointed to Aguilar as the suspected driver.
Prosecutors said the investigators questioned Aguilars parents, who said their son confessed to them, at different times, that he was the driver in the crash. Authorities later found Aguilar hiding in his mothers closet and arrested him.