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Career criminal convicted of manslaughter in fatal DUI collision

A Turlock man who had seemingly made a career of burglaries and auto thefts for well more than a decade, is now facing 30 years in prison after one of his poor decisions cost the life of a Hilmar man.

Daniel Allen Coats, 41, was found guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated along with enhancements for fleeing the scene of a vehicular manslaughter. The verdict was reached by the jury on June 29, after a week-long trial, the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office reported.

The charges against Coats came from a hit and run in December 2018 that resulted in the death of Jose Manuel Mora, 55, of Hilmar.

On Dec. 26, 2018, Mora was driving his Nissan pickup truck southbound on Lander Avenue in Turlock when he attempted to make a U-turn just south of the intersection with West F Street.

At the same time, Coats was speeding southbound on Lander Avenue in a Ford Mustang at approximately 80 miles per hour in a 40 mile per hour zone, according to the collision report. Video surveillance from a nearby business showed Coats’ vehicle hit Mora’s pickup midway through the turn, ripping it in half and separating the truck’s cab from the bed by nearly 100 feet. Mora sustained significant internal injuries from the crash and was pronounced deceased from his injuries after being transported to Emanuel Medical Center.

Coats’ Mustang sustained major front-end damage, but he was able to walk away from the crash.

Witnesses during the trail testified that Coats started walking away from the scene after looking at the condition of Mora’s body. The witnesses also said they heard Coats on his phone telling someone to “get me out of here.”

Coats was picked up by family members but was followed and quickly arrested by Turlock Police officers four blocks away as he attempted to flee the scene.

Coats had injuries consistent with being the driver of the Mustang. Officers noted he also showed obvious signs of alcohol intoxication but refused to provide a blood sample, forcing officers to obtain a search warrant for a forced blood draw five hours later. Coats’ blood was later tested and showed that at that time his blood alcohol content was .14%, above the legal limit of .08%. A blood sample was taken from the Mustang’s driver’s side dashboard, and later testing proved it was a DNA match for Coats.

In a separate court trial before Judge Carrie Stephens, the court found Coats prior “Strike” conviction to be true.

Coats has accrued a significant criminal history over the years, primarily for thefts of one type or another.

On May 8, 2009, at approximately 6:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the El Rosal restaurant in Turlock, Coats broke into a parked 2007 black Cadillac Escalade and stole a purse that was left inside. Coats retrieved the victim’s house key and driver’s license from inside the purse to discover the victim’s address. He drove to the victim’s home in Denair while she was still eating inside the restaurant and broke into the house. After returning to her home, the victim discovered that she had been burglarized. While investigating the scene, a deputy located a fingerprint that was determined to match Coats. An arrest warrant was then issued for Coats.

On May 11, 2010, Coats stole a 1997 gold Infinity J30 car that was parked on Lander Avenue in Turlock. Coats was later arrested in Sparks, Nevada driving the stolen car. He was sentenced to six years in prison in 2010.

By January 2014, Coats was out of prison and facing new charges. He was arrested when he and Victoria Salen were stopped near Skywalker Ranch, the home of filmmaker George Lucas, in Marin County. Inside the couple’s Chevrolet truck, law enforcement found several items commonly used in burglaries, including a lock-picking kit, shaved keys, bolt cutters and a crowbar. Deputies also found ammunition, as well as purses, cell phones and electronics that were covered in glass, giving the indication that the items had been stolen.

That arrest occurred while they were out on bail for charges in Stanislaus County stemming from stolen property that was found at their residence after a fire was started nearby. Turlock firefighters were called to the 500 block of Sunnyside Drive, they found flames licking the roofline of the house. The fire had originated in an alley and was ruled an arson.

While fighting the flames, firefighters found a large supply of construction tools at the scene that were engraved with a last name that was different from that of the resident — Coats. Officers checked the tools and found they had been reported stolen. The owner estimated the value of the tools at about $15,000.

Coats was not at his residence, but because he was on parole, his house was open to a search, according to the Turlock Police Department. Inside the home officers found a purse belonging to Salen. Inside the purse they found numerous credit cards, driver’s licenses, and Social Security cards, all in other people’s names

Officers also found property from an auto theft that had been reported earlier that day from the parking lot of the Sizzler restaurant.

Salen was located at the Sunnyside residence and arrested for possession of stolen property. Coats was located a few days later sleeping in a car in the 2100 block of W. Main Street. Coats had a handgun in his lap with the serial number filed off when he was found.

Coats was serving a prison term for his past offenses when he was convicted for tax fraud. According to court documents, beginning in 2011, Coats and three fellow inmates in the California Correctional Center in Susanville obtained the personal identification information of other inmates and provided it to co-defendants outside the prison. The co-defendants then used that information to prepare and file false income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service, claiming refunds to which the inmates were not entitled. Coats also filed three false tax returns in his own name.

In all, the conspiracy resulted in at least 247 false claims for income tax returns in the tax years 2008 through 2011. Although the IRS stopped some of these refunds, approximately 138 fraudulent refunds totaling approximately $219,984 were issued.

In 2016, Coats was convicted for tax fraud and was sentenced to one and a half years in prison and ordered to pay $8,938 in restitution for his role in a conspiracy.

Coats returns to court on August 30, for sentencing and he faces up to 30 years in state prison.