Hit-and-Run on Interstate 215
RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A former Texas lawman pleaded guilty Tuesday to fatally hitting a man stranded on the shoulder of Interstate 215 and fleeing the scene, and he was immediately sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison.
Giovanni Ceja, 31, admitted the second-degree murder charge under a plea agreement with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped a charge of hit-and-run resulting in death and a sentence-enhancing allegation of fleeing the scene of a crime against him.
Superior Court Judge Gary Polk certified the terms of the plea deal and imposed the sentence stipulated by the prosecution and defense.
According to the California Highway Patrol, the defendant killed 38-year-old Gilberto Sotelo of Lake Elsinore in August.
Ceja was a sheriff’s corporal out of Bexar County, Texas, where he served as a jailer, according to the CHP.
Shortly before 2 a.m. Aug. 7, the defendant was traveling southbound on I-215, just south of the Riverside (91) Freeway, when his Honda Ridgeline pickup drifted toward the shoulder of the freeway.
Sotelo’s Chevrolet Silverado had stalled at the location after running out of gas, and the victim was outside, trying to refill the tank with a portable fuel container, according to investigators.
Ceja plowed into Sotelo and did not stop, speeding away southbound, CHP officials said.
On Aug. 9, the defendant’s Honda was located at a repair facility in Riverside, where it was positively identified as the pickup involved in the fatality and seized as evidence.
Within a week, Ceja was arrested in Texas by members of his own department. He immediately tendered his resignation.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar told reporters Ceja was vacationing in California and had borrowed the pickup from a relative when the crash occurred. He added that the defendant had consumed “a significant amount of alcohol” before getting behind the wheel that night.
Ceja was extradited to Riverside County in September.
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