The Turlock man who was behind the wheel in a fatal collision that struck two people out for a walk, claiming the life of one, was sentenced to prison Tuesday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Rene Salas was sentenced to 12 years in prison for felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence for the death of Elizabeth Mancha, 46, on Jan. 9, 2014.
In November 2015, Salas agreed to a plea deal that had him enter a guilty plea to the vehicular manslaughter charge, while the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office dropped charges of felony hit and run causing death and reckless driving, and a misdemeanor charge of driving on a suspended license, according to court records. As part of the plea deal, Salas had to admit to a prior strike for burglary, which doubled the sentence from six years to 12.
Mancha and her life partner, David McThorn, were walking their dog around Summerfaire Park during the early evening hours of Jan. 9, 2014. The couple were in the 1300 block of Joett Drive when a Ford Mustang came careening up onto the sidewalk, striking them both.
Emergency responders performed CPR on Mancha, but she was pronounced dead at the scene. The boyfriend was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. The dog, Dolly, an Australian Shepherd mix ran from the collision scene, but was later found and reunited with her owner.
Witnesses to the collision called 911 and reported seeing the driver run from the scene. Salas spoke to investigators the day after the collision and was officially arrested on Jan. 24, 2014.
At the sentencing hearing Salas remained silent, but his sister Tina Salas said he wanted to make an apology to Mancha’s family and friends.
“He planned on making an apology but his public defender told him not to say anything,” Tina Salas said. “He is deeply sorry for what he did and knows that he has to pay for his actions. This will stay with him for the rest of his life. He said he knows he has caused them sorrow and that such a great loss in their lives can never be replaced.”
Salas’ case was slated to begin jury selection when he agreed to the plea deal. He has been in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail since his arrest in January 2014.