SALEM, OR (The Statesman-Journal) – A Hubbard man was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison Wednesday for hitting and killing a Salem couple while driving drunk.
About two dozen of the victims’ friends and family members filled the courtroom during the sentencing of Eduardo De La Lima-Vargas.
The case proved to be contentious due to the defendant’s immigration status. According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, De La Lima-Vargas is a citizen of Mexico residing illegally in the United States.
De La Lima-Vargas, 40, of Hubbard, was driving his truck pulling an occupied horse trailer on Mission Street near Interstate 5 on Aug. 19 when he ran a red light and hit a motorcycle carrying Logan Wilson, 34, and Jessica Wilson, 32.
De La Lima-Vargas was arrested on two counts of first-degree manslaughter, DUI, reckless driving and two counts of reckless endangerment following the deadly crash.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree manslaughter and DUI Wednesday. Marion County Judge David Leith sentenced him to 12 years and six months in prison.
Due to the manslaughter being a Measure 11 offense, De La Lima-Vargas will not be eligible for early release or alternative programs. He faces deportation upon his release.
The Wilsons had a blended family from their previous marriages with children ranging in ages 11 to 15. They lived on the outskirts of Salem and enjoyed camping, the outdoors and hosting barbecues. Logan worked as a truck driver, and Jessica worked with children.
“They didn’t have a bad bone in their bodies,” Logan’s mother Rochelle Coburn said.
The night of the crash, responding officers described Vargas as smelling strongly of alcohol and swaying on his feet while standing. He failed a field sobriety test and his blood-alcohol content was at 0.10% two hours after the crash.
Several witnesses reported seeing him swerving and driving recklessly, according to court records.
Two hours before the crash, he was involved in a property damage incident. After one witness called police and told him not to leave, De La Lima-Vargas allegedly threatened to shoot the witness and drove away.
He made it to Mission Street, where he crashed into the motorcycle.
The force of the collision threw both riders from the motorcycle and lodged it under the truck, causing both vehicles to catch fire.
First responders extinguished the fire and rescued the horse from the trailer.
Prosecutors stressed that after the crash, De La Lima-Vargas did not ask about the condition of the people he hit.
Family members of the victims said the fact that De La Lima-Vargas would be housed and fed by the government and allowed to see his family while incarcerated felt like a “slap in the face.”
When the judge talked about De La Lima-Vargas’ constitutional rights, they expressed dismay that, as an undocumented immigrant, he was even allowed constitutional rights in the first place.
Logan’s sister Mariah Turnidge called De La Lima-Vargas an “incredibly selfish, immoral person.” She said he could’ve called a cab or slept in his vehicle the night of the crash.
“Instead, he used it as a murder weapon,” she said.
The family asked for a longer sentence and cited De La Lima-Vargas’ previous DUI arrest, which was diverted.