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Huerta-Viera facing manslaughter charge for vehicular death of Dale Gumm

POSTED November 2, 2012 8:12 p.m.

A 25-year-old Waterford man who was behind the wheel in a collision that killed a Hilmar man out for a morning ride on his motorcycle, will stand trial for the man’s death, a Stanislaus County Superior Court judge ruled Friday.

Judge Linda McFadden ruled at the conclusion of the daylong preliminary hearing that there was sufficient cause to hold Hugo Alfredo Huerta-Viera over for trial for the death of 50-year-old Dale Gumm on Oct. 9, 2011.

Huerta-Viera is facing a single charge of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

According to the Modesto Police Department’s collision report, Huerta-Viera was eastbound on Highway 132, near Tim Bell Road in Waterford, when his car veered over into the other lane while going through a blind curve. Gumm was traveling westbound on the highway and was struck head-on by Huerta-Viera’s Pontiac G6.

Gumm was ejected from his Yamaha V-Star motorcycle. Emergency personnel attempted to revive him, but he was pronounced dead shortly after the collision was reported at 7 a.m.

Kevin Johnson, a witness to the events leading up to the crash, testified that Huerta-Viera was traveling at an estimated 50 to 55 mph while approaching the blind curve.

The Pontiac also struck a large tree after hitting Gumm. Huerta-Viera sustained minor injuries and was transported via ambulance to Memorial Medical Center.

 Modesto Police Officer Shane Castro, assigned to the department’s driving under the influence unit, said he spoke with Huerta-Viera at the hospital and that Huerta-Viera initially tried to cover up his drinking.

Castro testified Huerta-Viera first told him that he hadn’t had anything to drink. Then when the officer said he didn’t think Huerta-Viera was “being honest with him,” the defendant admitted to having one beer that morning after getting off work from his truck driving job in Los Banos. The one beer then became two and half beers that Huerta-Viera said he drank between 5:30 a.m. and 5:45 a.m. that morning.

Huerta-Viera had a blood alcohol content of .10 percent, Castro testified. The legal limit for driving in California is .08 percent.

When told of Gumm’s death from the collision, Huerta-Viera allegedly said, “Oh wow. I really screwed up. I made a mistake.”

The defense didn’t put on any witnesses during the hearing, but defense attorney Frank Carson argued vigorously that the design of the road went more to causing the crash that Huerta-Viera’s driving. Carson cited a Caltrans report documenting 12 collisions at the site between 2002 and 2010.

“It’s every driver’s nightmare to be a part of the death of another human being,” Carson said. “This same accident could have happened without him (Huerta-Viera) being under the influence."

In his final argument Deputy District Attorney Tony Colacito took some exception to the use of the word “accident.”

“It is a tragedy,” Colacito said “It’s a preventable tragedy and by no means an accident.”

Huerta-Viera is scheduled for an arraignment on Nov. 26.

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