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Drunk driver gets four years for Hilmar man’s death

POSTED April 5, 2013 1:38 p.m.

A Waterford man will spend the next four years in prison for his role in a drunken driving collision that killed a Hilmar motorcyclist in 2011.

Hugo Alfredo Huerta, 25, was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated after pleading no contest to the felony charge. He was sentenced Wednesday in Stanislaus County Superior Court to four years in state prison and ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution, according to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.

A second felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon not a firearm likely to cause great bodily injury and/or death was dismissed.

Huerta was brought up on charges for the death of 50-year-old Dale Gumm, who was driving home from work on his motorcycle when he was struck and killed.

According to the Modesto Police Department’s collision report from Oct. 9, 2011, Huerta was eastbound on Highway 132, near Tim Bell Road in Waterford, when his Pontiac G6 veered over into the other lane while going through a blind curve. Gumm was traveling westbound on the highway and was struck head-on.

The impact ejected Gumm 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.

The Pontiac also struck a large tree causing minor injuries for Huerta, who was transported via ambulance to Memorial Medical Center.

During Huerta’s preliminary hearing a witness to the crash testified Huerta’s Pontiac was traveling at an estimated 50 to 55 mph as it approached the blind curve.

Modesto Police Officer Shane Castro, assigned to the department’s driving under the influence unit, testified at the hearing that he spoke with Huerta at the hospital and that Huerta initially denied having had anything to drink.

Castro testified he told Huerta he didn’t believe him and Huerta admitted to having one beer that morning after getting off work from his truck driving job in Los Banos. Huerta later admitted to drinking two and a half beers in a 15 minute time span that morning and having been partying earlier.

Huerta had a blood alcohol content of .10 percent. The legal limit for driving in California is .08 percent.

During the preliminary hearing Castro testified that when he told Huerta of Gumm’s death, Huerta replied “Oh wow. I really screwed up. I made a mistake.”

The sentencing of Huerta was an emotional ending for Gumm’s family, who have been following the court proceedings.

“It only takes one time even for seasoned drinkers to get into an accident and change their lives and people’s lives in which they have no concern for,” said Gumm’s daughter Diane Garrett. “I never thought even for a second that on a Sunday morning at 7 a.m. that my father simply driving home from his shift at work would be killed by a drunk driver. To me, four years — two years which he will be required to serve — is nothing compared to the absence of my father in life. No matter the time he serves, he will still be able to resume his life where he left off, but for my family and me we will live the rest of our lives with a deep void that can never be replaced. I really hope that my father’s tragic death is not in vain, but can at least be a learning experience for this pathetic guy, as well as many others that can prevent future cases like this.”

Gumm lived in Hilmar for 17 years and served as a water treatment operator for MID for 21 years. He was survived by his wife, mother, four sons and two daughters, and a twin brother, who read a statement at the sentence hearing that spoke directly to Huerta.

“You’ve pleaded guilty to your crime and you’re serving time in prison,” said Donald Gumm. “I’m not going to comment on if I think that your punishment is severe enough.  I think that depends on what are you going to be like when you leave prison?  Will you be a changed man for the better or worse?  Will you accept the responsibility of your drinking problem or will you blame others for it?  Will you stop drinking for the rest of your life or are you going to start drinking again?  Will you commit to psychotherapy or group therapy to change your ways or are you just going to just ‘wing it’ when you get out?  Are you going to teach others about the bad choice of drinking and driving?  Only time will tell what you decide to do with your life, but at least you will be alive and will have another chance with your life.  Good choices or bad choices in your future, it’s all up to you.”

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