His friends begged him to stop: Modesto man sentenced to 12 years for fatal DUI crash

·3 min read

A 21-year-old Modesto man has been sentenced on vehicular manslaughter and other charges connected to a December 2020 fatal crash, authorities said, in a case that was delayed when the defendant claimed to have COVID-19 last year.

According to a release issued by the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office, Nicolas Villela IV was ordered to serve 12 years, eight months in prison after pleading guilty in April to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content over .08% and causing great bodily injury.

The Dec. 5 crash resulted in the death of Francisco Diaz Lomeli, 20. Four others suffered serious injuries and three more were hurt.

According to authorities, Villela had been drinking alcohol at a party in Modesto when he left with three passengers to pick up more friends at the skateboard park in Oakdale. On the way there, Villela swerved into oncoming traffic. At the park, he picked up more friends, making for seven occupants in a Nissan Altima designed to hold only five.

“Villela drove back to Modesto at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour while weaving within and outside his lane of travel,” the news release said. Testimony in court later revealed that Villela’s driving made his passengers worried, nervous and scared, and they told him to slow down.

“At one point, Villela got so upset by his passengers’ comments that he stopped the car, got out and briefly walked away before getting back into the driver’s seat and continuing to drive at a high rate of speed up to the moment of the crash,” authorities said in the news release.

Villela ran the stop sign at Langworth and Claribel roads, and the Altima crashed into the passenger side of a car being driven by Deborah Mendez. Her passenger, Lomeli, was killed instantly.

The six passengers in Villela’s vehicle suffered varying degrees of injuries from broken bones and lacerations to complaints of pain. Nineteen people — nearby residents and drivers in the area — helped the injured and put out a fire that started in the car.

“At the scene, Villela was uncooperative, hostile and belligerent to emergency personnel who responded to the crash,” prosecutors said. “He did admit to California Highway Patrol Officer Jason Evans that he had been driving too fast, he had previously known mechanical problems with his brakes and that he had been drinking alcohol before picking up his brother at the skate park and was heading back to Modesto.”

Villela, who suffered minor injuries, fought emergency personnel who tried to strap him to a gurney, and assaulted Evans.

A subsequent blood test showed Villela’s blood alcohol level to be 0.149%, well above the legal limit of 0.08%.

A preliminary hearing to determine if there was enough evidence to hold Villela for trial started in August 2021 but was repeatedly delayed due to claims of COVID-19. Villela’s bail was revoked and he was taken into custody on Nov. 19 after presenting what authorities believed was a fraudulent COVID-19 test result.

Judge Dawna Reeves held the defendant to answer as charged on Dec. 15, 2021. He pleaded guilty at his scheduled arraignment four months later.

Lomeli’s family members offered victim impact statements, saying that Lomeli’s life was snuffed out by “someone else’s irresponsibility, selfishness and bad decisions.”