Davenport man sentenced to up to 15 years in prison in fatal crash

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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - A Davenport man was sentenced Thursday to up to 15 years in prison for killing another driver while he was fleeing from a Davenport police officer in June.

Angel Domingo Ochoa, 19, pleaded guilty in early January to homicide by vehicle-reckless driving, serious injury by vehicle, and interference with official acts, all felonies. (KWQC/Scott County Sheriff's Office)

Judge Jeffrey Bert also ordered Angel Domingo Ochoa, 19, to pay $150,000 in victim restitution to the family of 48-year-old Lori Letts of Davenport.

He also will receive credit for time already served in the Scott County Jail.

Ochoa pleaded guilty Dec. 31 to homicide by vehicle-reckless driving, serious injury by vehicle, and interference with official acts.

In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dismissed an additional charge of homicide by vehicle-operating under the influence at Thursday’s sentencing hearing.

Just after 2 p.m. on June 13, Davenport Police Officer Michael Stegall attempted to pull over a red 1998 Lincoln Town Car driven by Ochoa at Division Street and Northwest Boulevard, according to court documents.

The officer noted several traffic violations, including no taillight and seat belts not properly worn by Ochoa and his passenger.
Instead of stopping, Ochoa fled. Davenport police have said Ochoa was on the department’s pursuable list of individuals who have had recent involvement in shootings or crimes involving guns.

Assistant Scott County Attorney Kimberly Shepherd said Thursday that Ochoa fled from the officer, knowing he had warrants in Scott County for gun charges and other offenses.

Ochoa drove at speeds between 80 to 90 mph and failed to stop at multiple red-lighted intersections as he tried to elude the officer, according to court documents.

Ochoa, who was driving westbound on Kimberly Road and approaching North Fairmount Street, failed to stop at the steady red light of the intersection and continued through and broadsided a white 2010 Chevrolet Equinox driven by Letts.

Letts was driving southbound on North Fairmount Street at the time of the crash.

Ochoa was seen on dashcam video and by Stegall trying to get out of the Lincoln Town Car from the driver’s seat but could not because of the severe damage to the vehicle.

He and his passenger were taken to a local hospital for their injuries. The passenger was later taken to University Hospitals in Iowa City.

According to court documents, Ochoa admitted to smoking marijuana in the vehicle the day of the crash and driving recklessly through traffic to get away from police.

During a nearly 30-minute hearing Thursday, Shepherd asked Bert to sentence Ochoa to up to 20 years in prison, saying that “the loss of Mrs. Letts has been devastating to her family.”

His attorney, Miguel Puentes, asked the judge to consider imposing a suspended sentence, noting that Ochoa took responsibility for his actions that day.

“He undeniably has to live with the decision that he made and the impact he had on himself and his family,” Puentes said. “Worst of all the family, Ms. Lett’s family, has to live with the decisions that he made. But the decisions he made were not specifically to harm Ms. Letts on that day.”

Ochoa, speaking in a quiet voice, apologized and said, “I wish I could take it back.”

Letts’ son, Garth Letts, said his mother’s death has torn the family apart.

“I’ve got this hole that I don’t know what to do with,” he told the judge.

“My mom, she meant the world to me. I talked to her every day. She called me every morning to make sure I was up for work because I was late one time 13 years ago.”

Letts’ mother, Margie Jump, said she believes Ochoa did not set out to hurt anyone or kill her daughter that day.

“But, he’s still alive,” she said. “My daughter’s not. She’s not getting a second chance. I don’t know why he should get a second chance.”

Bert sentenced Ochoa to up to 10 years in prison on the homicide by vehicle charge and up to five years each on the remaining charges.

The sentences on the serious injury and interference charges will run at the same time, but back-to-back with the sentence on the homicide by vehicle charge for a total of up to 15 years, the judge ordered.

In handing down the sentence, Bert said there was “no question that it’s a tragedy as it relates to the Letts family (and) it’s also a tragedy as it relates to you.”