Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
DRUNKEN DRIVER SENTENCED TO 31 YEARS IN STATE PRISON FOR KILLING 18-YEAR-OLD WOMAN BY REAR-ENDING STOPPED VEHICLE AT RED LIGHT
SANTA ANA – A drunken driver was sentenced today to 31 years in state prison for killing an 18-year-old woman by rear-ending the car where she was riding as a passenger. Robert Charles Serrano, 37, Chino Hills, pleaded guilty to the court Feb. 22, 2011, to one felony count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated. He admitted to sentencing enhancements and allegations for causing bodily injury to multiple victims, fleeing the scene, a prior strike conviction for a 1992 robbery, a prior conviction for driving under the influence in 2005 in California, and two prior convictions for driving under the influence in 1997 and a reckless driving involving alcohol in 1999 in Washington.
Early in the morning on Jan. 3, 2010, Serrano was intoxicated after consuming several alcoholic beverages, including at Jasper’s bar in Santa Ana with friend Erick Urias. At approximately 2:00 a.m., Serrano was driving a black BMW eastbound on MacArthur Boulevard while under the influence of alcohol. Urias was in the passenger seat. At the intersection of MacArthur Boulevard and Main Street in Santa Ana, Serrano failed to stop and crashed at a high rate of speed into the back of a Toyota Scion, which was stopped at a red light.
The impact of the crash pushed the Scion into the intersection. Serrano’s car traveled into the intersection and collided with a Toyota Corolla driven by Alfonso Benitez, which was legally making a left turn. The driver of a Chevrolet sedan, also making a legal left turn, was unable to avoid the several-car collision and also crashed.
After his car had come to a stop in the intersection, Serrano fled the scene on foot, leaving his injured passenger behind. Urias suffered lacerations to his forehead and hand. Benitez suffered a laceration to his shin. The driver of the Scion, Patrick Lewis, suffered pain to his head, neck, and shoulders. Corban White, the 18-year-old female passenger in the Scion, was transported to the hospital and died due to blunt force trauma to the head as a result of the crash caused by Serrano. The Chevrolet driver was uninjured.
Serrano was arrested at noon that day at his mother’s Fountain Valley home by the Santa Ana Police Department. Subsequent statements by employees of Jasper’s bar and Urias revealed that Serrano was intoxicated and unsafe to drive.
During the sentencing today, White’s mother, father, and two brothers gave impact statements to the court and explained that Corban was vibrant and loving and always made herself available to help her friends. They described the complete devastation caused by her loss and the trauma of watching her die in the hospital the day after the crash.
Victim Lewis and his grandmother also gave impact statements to the court. Lewis said that White was a wonderful girlfriend, and that her death has made it difficult for him to carry on life the same way he did before the crash.