By Matt de Simone
Last Tuesday in Fincastle, Efrain Noel Hernandez-Claros signed a no-contest plea agreement to all three charges of two counts of aggravated involuntary manslaughter and one count of aggravated driving under the influence with maiming. The judge accepted the plea and found Hernandez guilty on all counts.
The crash on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Botetourt County occurred on August 29, 2020, resulting in the death of a 19-year-old and a 23-year-old man. Another 19-year-old passenger suffered a head injury and a fractured femur.
Hernandez suffered no injuries as he was the only passenger wearing a seat belt in the accident. The investigation ascertained that Hernandez reached over 85 mph in the vehicle before swerving to avoid hitting a deer on the Parkway.
The sentencing is scheduled for January 6, 2022, at 1:30 p.m. Botetourt County Circuit Judge Joel Branscom scheduled a pre-sentence investigation report that will be prepared and returned to the court. The information will include victim-impact statements from the families of the deceased victims and from the injured man. Those will all require interpreters for the probation officer to prepare, which takes longer than the average pre-sentence report.
The families of the two deceased victims, Jiuver Alexander Espinoza-Regalado and Christian David Sapil-Canales, were consulted, as was the surviving victim, Jorgi Nedit Moran-Hernandez.
The agreement is that the Commonwealth agrees to recommend no more than 15 years of active incarceration. That is at the high end of the sentencing guidelines recommendation range. The court could still impose any sentence of up to 50 years.