|For Immediate Release
Case # 10NF4137 June 7, 2013
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
DRUNKEN TEEN DRIVER SENTENCED TO 30 YEARS TO LIFE IN STATE PRISON FOR MURDERING FATHER AND SON IN HIGH-SPEED EARLY-MORNING CRASH
SANTA ANA – A drunken teenage driver was sentenced today to 30 years to life in state prison for murdering a father and son in an early-morning high-speed crash. Rafael Lopez, 20, Anaheim, was found guilty by a jury April 18, 2013, of two felony counts of murder.
At approximately 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 18, 2010, then-18-year-old Lopez was driving at a high rate of speed while under the influence of alcohol on Crescent Avenue in Buena Park. He was driving his Mitsubishi sedan at approximately 80 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone, accelerated through a red light at the intersection of Knott Avenue and Crescent Avenue, and failed to brake before crashing into a Buick sedan driven by 44-year-old Steven Uselton. Steven Uselton’s 17-year-old son Douglas Uselton was riding in the passenger seat on their way to an early-morning high school debate tournament.
Lopez caused the victims’ car to travel over 130 feet before coming to a stop. Steven and Douglas Uselton were both pronounced dead at the scene. Lopez murdered Douglas Uselton by causing blunt force trauma to the head and internal injuries. Lopez murdered Steven Uselton by causing multiple blunt force injuries and internal bleeding.
Lopez had a .13 blood alcohol level after the crash. He was transported from the scene to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries and was arrested by the Buena Park Police Department (BPPD) upon his hospital discharge.
At the sentencing today, seven friends and family members gave tearful victim impact statements to the court. The victims’ wife/mother Desiree Uselton said that as her husband walked out the door the day of his murder, he said he would be home soon. She continued, “I’m still waiting.” She described her son as a man who wanted to serve his country and who was set to attend the Naval Academy before his murder. She also said in part, “I wonder if Steve saw Douglas die? I think he did. And then he died of a broken heart.”
The victims’ daughter/sister Erin Uselton called her brother a friend, protector, and mentor. She described feeling like a part of herself was gone. She recalled having long talks with her dad and attending his alma matter to make him proud. Erin Uselton discussed the permanency of the loss of her father and brother and ended with, “This is for life to us.”
BPPD investigated this case and Senior Deputy District Attorney Troy Pino of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.