California Supreme Court Won't Hear Case of Man Convicted in Deadly Pursuit

Row of Prison Cells

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to review the case of a Santa Fe Springs resident who was convicted of murder and other charges for leading police on a pursuit that ended with a fiery crash in Whittier.

Kevin Vargas was convicted in May 2022 of second-degree murder for the Feb. 18, 2019, crash that left  Isaias Rodriguez Cruz, 61, dead.

Vargas had fled from an officer who tried to stop him for a traffic violation Feb. 18, 2019, and a brief pursuit ensued in which he drove onto a dead-end street, made a U-turn and drove toward police vehicles chasing him, authorities said.

Vargas' car collided with the victim's Ford Explorer near the corner of Wardman Street and Pickering Avenue. Cruz died from blunt force trauma that day at a hospital.

Vargas was arrested after escaping from his car -- which burst into flames -- and fleeing from the scene of the crash.

Along with the murder charge, he was found guilty of one count each of evading a peace officer causing death and hit-and-run driving resulting in death, along with four counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer and two misdemeanor counts of hit-and-run with property damage.

In a June 16 ruling, a three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense's contention that the trial court erred in denying Vargas' motion to exclude statements he made during a video- recorded interview while in custody or that the court should have alternatively allowed the entire video recording, including a portion showing him crying alone after the interview concluded.

The panel noted in its 15-page ruling that the jury heard a police officer's testimony that Vargas had cried while being questioned, and that part of the recording showed him crying during the interview.

Vargas is serving a 20-year-to-life state prison sentence.

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