A 38-year-old man is facing a six-year sentence for a DUI crash that killed another man and his 6-year-old nephew in Santa Ana, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Armando Edgar Duran Cruz pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter and driving drunk causing injury, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Whitney Bokosky.
Cruz, who is scheduled to be sentenced July 20, accepted a plea bargain from Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert Fitzgerald.
David Wayne Cote, who was 54, and his nephew, Ivan Sandoval, were killed in the Aug. 3, 2015, crash. Cote at the time was the legal guardian of the boy, who had lost his mother to cancer not long before the collision.
Investigators initially suspected that Cote — who was driving under the influence of marijuana, morphine and two beers — was at fault for the collision, Bokosky said. Further investigation determined that Cruz was speeding, though not to a great degree, but had a blood-alcohol level of .29 at the time of the crash, the prosecutor said.
Cruz has a prior conviction in 2008 for driving under the influence, Bokosky said.
Ivan was in the front seat of his uncle's older-model BMW sedan, but should have been in a booster seat, which was in the back seat of the car, according to Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna. State law mandates children must be 8 years old or 80 pounds before they can ride up front without using a booster seat.
Cote's stepdaughter, Jeanette Moreno, told Fitzgerald before Monday's hearing that Ivan was a "vibrant" boy.
"He was constantly doing typical boy activities such as riding his bike, skateboard or Razor scooter," Moreno said. "When Ivan played, he played hard."
She said Ivan and her daughter were "extremely close" and had their own pretend language.
"We have been robbed of all the joy he brought us,'' Moreno said.
"There is not a day that passes that I don't think of my baby brother; Ivan will be forever loved and missed."
She said her stepfather was an "all-around family man ... His children meant the world to him. I remember being pregnant and even though he had just got home from a long drive and a long day's work, he doted on me hand and foot."