SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Following more than a week of deliberations, jurors reached a verdict Monday in the trial of a Navy petty officer accused of driving drunk and losing control of his truck, which plummeted over the side of a transition ramp to the San Diego-Coronado Bridge and landed in Chicano Park, killing four people.
Richard Anthony Sepolio, 27, is charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI and reckless driving for the Oct. 15, 2016, deaths of Annamarie Contreras, 50, and Cruz Contreras, 52, a married couple from Chandler, Arizona; and Hacienda Heights residents Andre Banks, 49, and Francine Jiminez, 46. Seven other people were seriously injured.
The verdict will be read at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the San Diego Central Courthouse to give parties involved in the case -- some of whom are from out of state -- time to travel to the hearing. Courthouses are closed tomorrow in observance of Lincoln's birthday.
The jury began deliberating 10 days ago in Sepolio's trial.
Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright told the panel in closing arguments that Sepolio chose "to drive irritated, impaired and impatient." Prosecutors argue that in addition to having drinks prior to getting behind the wheel, Sepolio was arguing with his girlfriend over the phone just moments before losing control of his truck on the bridge.
Sepolio testified he was driving on the transition ramp -- a route back to Coronado that he had driven more than 90 times before -- when he sped up to merge in front of another car and lost control.
The defendant said he remembered being on top of a freeway barrier looking down, then waking up in the park and being pulled out of his truck. Sepolio said his memory was mostly "cloudy" about what happened after his truck plunged into the crowd below.
On the stand, he denied arguing with his then-girlfriend on the phone just before the crash, but admitted on cross-examination that he'd just left a lunch with a female Navy colleague where "the idea was to go out and have a good time." Sepolio testified he had a glass of alcoholic cider and a glass of wine at lunch before heading back to Coronado.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Paul Pfingst said multiple breath and blood tests showed that Sepolio was not under the influence of alcohol the day of the crash. One blood sample was taken to a California Highway Patrol office and wasn't tested for a year, Pfingst told the jury.
"They took his blood and they destroyed it ... and they say it's no big deal," the defense attorney said.
Sepolio faces at least 23 years and eight months in prison if convicted of all charges.
Two people were killed Tuesday night in a collision between a car and a big rig at an Otay Mesa intersection.
The Trump administration said Tuesday that it plans to cancel $929 million awarded to California's high-speed rail project and wants the state to return an additional $2.5 billion that it has already spent.
Construction has begun on the fifth border wall project of Donald Trump's presidency, replacing up to 14 miles (22 kilometers) of barrier in San Diego, authorities said Tuesday.
Winter weather and storms are keeping animal rescuers busy at SeaWorld. On Tuesday, News 8's Kelly Hessedal got an up-close look at some of the dozens of animals being nursed back to health.
While homelessness continues to be an issue in San Diego, one group of veterans has been quietly doing their part to help. Every week, the organization hands out sleeping bags to people living on the street.
Forecasters said Tuesday that California's markedly wet winter will continue to deliver significant rain and copious high-elevation snow to the saturated San Diego area this week.
All westbound lanes of Interstate-8 from State Route 163 will be closed Tuesday night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., Wednesday.
A new California bill introduced by a Southern California senator would add additional lanes no maximum speed limit to north and southbound Interstate 5 and Highway 99.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday to criticize California's lead role in a multistate lawsuit challenging his emergency declaration to pay for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
The San Diego Fleet's home debut against the Atlanta Legends afforded a few thousand diehards the opportunity to step foot onto the aging structure's premises once again, to check out the new Alliance of American Football League.