Judge rules to keep evidence in the trial of sailor driving truck off bridge, killing four in 2016

Posted at 5:52 PM, Aug 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-03 21:11:33-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The former Navy sailor accused of killing four people by driving his truck off the Coronado Bridge and onto a crowd attended a motions hearing Friday.

Richard Sepolio faces four counts of gross vehicular manslaughter and DUI. His defense team argued to throw out the DUI charge, as well as crucial evidence, including initial conversations between Sepolio and his arresting officers. The judge concluded that both issues would be allowed in the upcoming trial.

The nephew of two of the victims wants answers. Jacob Contreras has flown from Chicago to San Diego a dozen times to follow the case in court.

RELATED: Parents of driver in Coronado Bridge crash defend son

"I'm here a lot. I'm trying to move here,” Contreras said. "My family hasn't celebrated Thanksgiving in two years. Life is just not the same. It's never going to be the same."

Contreras is the nephew of Annamarie and Cruz Contreras of Chandler, Arizona, two of four people killed on October 15, 2016. Like the two other victims, Francine Jimenez and Andre Banks of Hacienda Heights, the couple was attending a fundraising event at Chicano Park when Sepolio’s truck suddenly plunged into a crowd, killing them.

Sepolio's high-profile attorney Paul Pfingst argued Friday that his client was not read his Miranda rights while being transported to the hospital for his injuries and therefore, the conversations between Sepolio and responding officers should be inadmissible during trial.

RELATED: Facebook Live video captures aftermath of bridge crash

CHP Officer Juan Carlos Jimenez read from his notes about the initial conversation.

"I asked if he felt the effects of the alcohol,” Jimenez said. “He said ‘Yep.’”

Officer Jimenez also recalled the moments when he gave Sepolio a Breathalyzer test. He believed Sepolio was attempting to fake the test by only pretending to breathe small amounts of air into the device. The test results showed Sepolio's blood alcohol level was 0.08 to 0.09%. 

RELATED: Social media: Truck flies off Coronado Bridge, lands on crowd

The defense also argued that responding officers never noted Sepolio had “slurred” speech, implying that he may not have been drunk when the accident occurred. Officer Jimenez remembered that Sepolio’s speech was indeed slurred and that he was complaining of back pain. But he admitted that instead of writing he had “slurred” speech, he noted that his speech was “slow.”

Jacob Contreras said he was not buying the defense’s argument. 

"The slurred speech and slow speech, if you're intoxicated, you tend to do both,” Contreras said. “So my point of view is the defendant was intoxicated.”

RELATED: Navy man charged with DUI in crash that killed four

Nearly two years since the crash, Sepolio has recovered from his injuries. But two families are still left without answers, still seeking justice.
"We are looking forward to putting this to rest and to get some closure, and to provide an example that if you drive intoxicated, you will be held responsible,” Contreras said. 

The judge decided that the DUI charge, as well as the initial conversations between the CHP officers and Sepolio will be allowed at trial. He also added another charge: reckless driving resulting in injury.