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A 47-year-old man pleaded guilty Friday and was sentenced to four years in prison for killing a former Miss Tustin in an Irvine street race that prosecutors called fatal.
The jury was stuck 11: 1 for acquittal for the second degree murder of Patrick Le in February, which led to a plea on Friday, July 3, 2018, the death of 43-year-old Carmella Van. Le pleaded guilty to gross manslaughter and was given credit for 1,000 days in custody.
Le apologized to the victim’s family in a statement from his attorney Brian Gurwitz.
“This letter is difficult to write and I am sure it is even more difficult to receive, but I have to tell you how sorry I am that Carmella Vann died,” Le said in the letter. “I wanted to let you know that I deeply regret the tragic event on July 3, 2018, when Carmella Vann went to her Lord in heaven.
“Although nothing can change what happened, I wanted you to know that I always regret this tragic event and that I wish it never happened. I do not ask for forgiveness, but please know that I feel a lot of pain and remorse. “
Le vowed to “spend the remainder of my remaining days doing good deeds on behalf of Carmella”.
The victim’s father, Presley Vann, said in his statement on the victim’s impact in court that he had forgiven the defendant.
“Every day became more and more of a struggle,” said Presley Vann since his daughter’s death. “But here is the joy of it. Carmella was a born again Christian and she is with her Lord and one day I will see her.
“I can’t handle the bitterness and anger, so I want to… expand on the defendant and not worry about being forgiven. I forgive you. You did something wrong that day and fell into the cracks of this broken world with Carmella. I hope you get on with your life. “
Presley Vann said his daughter had a knack for learning multiple languages over the years and won several beauty pageants, including Miss Tustin. She studied at UC Irvine, he said.
The victim’s husband, Jonathan Chance, described how they bonded through an affinity for 1980s songs. Once, when they were driving together and singing a song from the 80s on the radio, they walked into a mall and immediately heard the same song, which prompted Carmella Vann to say to her future husband, “I think I’m in trouble,” said he
“The world is definitely not the same without her, without her humor and grace,” said Chance. “She was an extraordinary person. I was so lucky that I would be with this person for the rest of my life. “
The two of them lived what was like a “romantic comedy,” Chance said, adding, “And we didn’t even like romantic comedies. We preferred horror films. It was an unintended heavenly story. “
Chance said the last thing she checked on her cell phone was the Jim James song “Here in Spirit.”
“It was like a precognitive message to me from beyond the grave, saying, ‘I’m here,” said Chance, adding when he saw that, “I’ve cried and cried. “
Chance also shared how difficult it was to “tell our 3 1/2 year old son Christopher that his mother was gone … Gone in Heaven forever. I didn’t even know how to tell him. That was the hardest thing I ever had to do. “
Chance said his wife would leave him love letters on his coffee mug in the morning and he would leave her love letters on the bathroom mirror.
Deputy District Attorney Janine Madera said in a lawsuit that it was not known how the street race started shortly after 3 p.m. on July 3, 2018.
Le was driving an Acura RL and co-defendant Anthony Gabriel Valenzuela was driving a Hyundai Veloster on Main Street and Red Hill Avenue in Irvine, where the speed limit is 50 mph, when a shuttle bus driver next to Le heard the engines turning, Madera said.
“When the traffic light turns green, Le and Valenzuela quickly lift off the borderline and accelerate quickly, as the video from the shuttle bus clearly shows,” wrote Madera in the test task.
Another video from a shop at 18071 Fitch shows the alleged race continuing, Madera claimed.
“Le and Valenzuela are far from having the road to themselves and drive significantly faster than the other vehicles,” wrote Madera.
“Valenzuela will then switch to lane # 2, while Le decides to switch to lane # 1 instead of slowing down and allowing Valenzuela to take the lead. The front of Valenzuela’s vehicle remains slightly ahead of Le’s vehicle as he changes from Lane # 2 to Lane # 1. “
Le did not slow to let Valenzuela pass, but kept pace and turned over the double yellow partition into oncoming traffic, Madera claimed. The cars went 60 mph to 63 mph, she added.
The victim stepped on her vehicle’s brakes, but Le “never brakes,” claimed Madera.
The defendant “never turns his wheel to avoid an accident,” wrote Madera. “Le’s car shows no signs of loss of control. Instead, he drives straight into the victim’s vehicle, hits her on the head, and forces her backwards. Her insides were torn apart by the force of the fall and she died instantly. “
Gurwitz argued that Le was forced out of his trail by Valenzuela, who is awaiting trial for second degree murder.
According to Gurwitz, Valenzuela has a long history of traffic law violations, which date back to driving a red light in Santa Ana in May 2009 through a parking ticket in Fountain Valley in November 2017. Valenzuela collected a total of eight parking tickets, Gurwitz said.
He was also involved in a crash in Fountain Valley on November 4, 2019, said Gurwitz.
Man pleads guilty to fatal Irvine crash was last changed: March 26, 2021 by
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