Road Rage Shooter Gets 98 Years to Life

A 29-year-old man who killed a woman and wounded her husband in a road rage shooting in South Los Angeles was sentenced today to 98 years to life in state prison.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta denied defense attorney Jack Keenan's request to throw out Juan Carlos Vigil's prior strike from a 1997 attempted murder case in Juvenile Court.

"In the past, he attempted to kill someone. Now he has killed someone," the judge said, noting that Margot Hepler died "because of an altercation on who should have the right-of-way on the road."

The 33-year-old woman -- who was a passenger in a car driven by her husband -- was shot in the right side of the head on May 28, 2006. Her husband was struck in the elbow.

In a letter to the judge, Russell Hepler urged the judge to give Vigil "the maximum sentence the law allows for his crimes."

"Margot was my sweet little angel and she was the best person I have ever known," Hepler wrote. "It has been three years since my wife was so cruelly taken from me and the family who loved and cherished her. There isn't a day that goes by that Margot doesn't come to mind."

Vigil shot his wife "simply because she was in the way" and "has no respect for life and is a danger to society," the surviving victim wrote.


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Vigil was arrested about two months later by an FBI fugitive task force, after a search dog found him hiding under a mattress in a Highland Park home.

Testimony linking Vigil to the murder scene came from Russell Hepler, who picked Vigil out of a photo lineup, and a woman motorist who was following the two vehicles before the fatal confrontation.

During the trial, Vigil's attorney argued that witness testimony was unreliable and that there was "absolutely no evidence" linking his client to the crime scene.

Vigil was convicted March 24 of one count each of second-degree murder, attempted murder and shooting into an occupied vehicle. Jurors also found gun use allegations to be true.

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