MURRIETA (CNS) - A probationer who ran over a 10-year-old Lake Elsinore boy, then fled the scene, pleaded guilty today to vehicular manslaughter and other charges. David Loperena, 26, of Lake Elsinore had been scheduled to go on trial this week for the death of Anthony Ochoa. During pretrial proceedings at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, the defendant's attorney, Chris Whelton, approached the court with a plea offer, and Riverside County Superior Court Judge John Monterosso accepted it.
Under the court-sanctioned agreement, which the District Attorney's Office did not have a say in, Loperenta admitted the manslaughter count, as well as hit-and-run resulting in death and sentence-enhancing allegations of fleeing the scene of a crime and causing an accident that resulted in a fatality. Monterosso indicated a sentence of nine years in state prison would be likely, but he referred the matter to the Department of Probation for further analysis as to what would constitute a just sentence.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 3. Loperena remains free on a $75,000 bond. The victim was struck at the intersection of Langstaff Street and Sumner Avenue about 7:20 p.m. on March 13. Sheriff's officials said Anthony and his sister were crossing the intersection, en route to a relative's house, when he was struck by Loperena's pickup truck.
Witnesses said the boy rolled onto the hood of the pickup, landing on the windshield. The defendant slowed long enough for the unconscious child to slide off of the vehicle, then he sped away, according to witnesses and investigators. His sister escaped injury. Patrol deputies arrived within a couple of minutes and discovered Anthony clinging to life. The Elsinore Elementary School student was taken to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, where he died a short time later.
With the help of good Samaritans, detectives identified Loperena's Chevrolet as the one involved in the hit-and-run. The probationer was arrested without a struggle at his Limited Avenue residence on the evening of March 14.
According to court records, he has prior misdemeanor convictions for driving under the influence and theft.