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Archive for Sunday, June 22, 2008

Driver pleads guilty to 20-year-old traffic fatality

June 22, 2008

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— A former Hutchinson man who disappeared 20 years ago before going on trial for a fatal traffic accident has pleaded guilty a month after being arrested re-entering the country.

Miguel R. Rangel Zubia, 41, entered the plea Friday to one count of aggravated vehicular homicide in the death of his pregnant wife, Sanjuana Lorena Velazquez, 28. She was killed on New Year's Day in 1988.

Zubia was originally bound over for a June 1988 trial but disappeared before the trial started, prosecutors said.

In exchange for Friday's plea, Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder agreed to dismiss the charge of failing to appear. Since the crime took place in 1988, Rangel Zubia will be subject to that year's sentencing laws.

Border patrol agents took Rangel Zubia of Chihuahua, Mexico, into custody last month when a fingerprint check linked him to an outstanding warrant.

Rangel Zubia's attorney, Janice Knox, said her client was pleading guilty to causing the unintentional death of his wife by driving too fast for conditions and in excess of the speed limit.

Schroeder said many of the court officials, attorneys and parties involved with the case are deceased. He said that Rangel Zubia's blood-alcohol content at the time of arrest was 0.103 percent, but the legal limit in Kansas at the time was 0.10 percent.

Rangel Zubia is schedule to be sentenced on July 25.

Schroeder has said he often reviewed the case over the years and regularly renewed the arrest warrant.

Vehicular homicide convictions carry up to two years in prison, which is the maximum sentence on the books at the time the crash occurred.

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