A Delhi man who was behind the wheel in a crash that killed an 18-year-old woman during a misguided effort to evade Turlock police officers has been convicted of vehicular manslaughter.
Jose Jesus Aguilar, 20, was facing a felony charge of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and a felony charge of hit and run causing permanent injury or death, for the collision on Nov. 3, 2012, that claimed the life of 18-year-old Taylor Vessel of Delhi.
Aguilar entered a no contest plea Friday afternoon in Stanislaus County Superior Court to the charge of vehicular manslaughter and admitted the special allegations that he caused great bodily injury and/ or death and that he fled the scene were true.
After entering the no contest plea, Judge Scott Steffen found Aguilar guilty on the first count and ordered the second count dismissed as part of the plea deal reached with the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.
Natasha Titsworth, 21, of Delhi, was charged as an accessory after the fact in relation to the fatal crash. She also entered a no contest plea Friday to the charge against her and was found guilty by Steffen.
Vessel was a passenger in a Chevy Malibu that was first spotted by a Turlock Police officer parked with another car near a strip mall at Marshall Street and Golden State Boulevard at 3:25 a.m. on Nov. 3, 2012. The officer shined a spotlight on the two cars and the Malibu sped off.
The Malibu accelerated to a high rate of speed on Golden State and then turned onto F Street.
The officer followed after the vehicle, but lost sight of it briefly. It wasn’t but a few minutes later a caller reported a vehicle had struck a tree and then crashed into a house in the 1200 block of Lander Avenue.
Witnesses to the crash told the police that the male driver fled from the scene.
Vessel was partially ejected during the collision. Residents and emergency personnel tried to revive her, but she died within minutes of the crash, according to the police report.
Early into the investigation the Turlock Police Department released surveillance video from a convenience store on Golden State Boulevard that included an image of a woman, later identified as Titsworth, the owner of the Malibu and an unidentified man deemed a person of interest in the case. The man was later identified as Aguilar.
Titsworth initially tried to report the vehicle stolen, and then refused to cooperate with the investigation whatsoever, according to the court records. She also refused to identify the person with her in the video.
Aguilar was taken into custody in January after investigators learned he was hiding out at a home in the 500 block of Angelus Street. According to the police report Aguilar tried to hide in a closet, but was located and taken into custody.
Aguilar is facing a possible sentence of seven years for Vessel’s death and Titsworth is looking at a sentence of 60 days, said Deputy District Attorney Tony Colacito. The actual sentencing will be determined by the court.
Aguilar and Titsworth were scheduled to have a preliminary hearing Friday to determine if there was enough cause to hold them over for trial on the charges lodged against them. Moments before the preliminary hearing was set to begin, Aguilar put in a request to obtain a new attorney. The matter was discussed in close session with just the defense attorney, Aguilar and the judge. The judge denied the request and ordered the preliminary hearing begin after a lunch recess. After the recess Aguilar and Titsworth both stated they wanted to change their pleas from not guilty to the no contest pleas.
A sentencing hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. Jan. 31.