Man Gets 19 Years to Life for DUI Death of Toddler in San Diego

Man Gets 19 Years to Life for DUI Death of Toddler in San Diego

File photograph of a judge's gavel. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images)

City News Service

City News Service

12/29/2023

Updated: 1/11/2024

0

SAN DIEGO—A man who drove drunk and fatally struck a toddler in City Heights with an SUV was sentenced Dec. 27 to 19 years to life in state prison.
Margarito Angeles Vargas, 47, was convicted of murder and other charges for striking 19-month-old Annaleeh Rodarte with a Toyota 4Runner at about 6:45 p.m. on Sept. 24, 2022.
The girl and her siblings were crossing Redwood Street about midway down the block when she was struck. Annaleeh was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead just after 1 a.m. the following morning.
After hitting the girl, Mr. Angeles Vargas purchased food from a nearby street vendor and later struck another vehicle that was stopped at a red light, according to trial testimony. He was arrested later that day at his home in the Bay Terraces neighborhood.
Due to a 2016 DUI conviction, prosecutors were able to charge him with murder.
Deputy District Attorney Hailey Williams alleged that Angeles Vargas had a blood alcohol level of .206 percent in the current case, and had a .21 percent blood alcohol level in the 2016 case, both of which are more than two times the legal driving limit in California. He was also not licensed to drive at the time of the 2022 fatality.
Ms. Williams said Mr. Angeles Vargas had at least six beers over the course of an hour he spent at a baby shower he attended just before getting behind the wheel.
At his sentencing hearing, the prosecutor said Mr. Angeles Vargas left “a party celebrating the arrival of a new baby and proceeded to take a baby from this world instead.”
At trial, defense attorney Marie Maloney argued Mr. Angeles Vargas was unable to see the girl in the roadway. Ms. Maloney said the girl’s short stature made it difficult to see her and the pothole-riddled roadway on Redwood Street made for bumpy travel that hampered visibility for drivers.
The defense attorney described the collision as “unavoidable” and said the girl entered the street when she was “tragically not visible anymore” from Mr. Angeles Vargas’ position.
Through a Spanish-speaking interpreter, Mr. Angeles Vargas apologized to the girl’s family and said, “I know they are suffering. I do feel the same way because I am also a father. I didn’t do it intentionally but I do feel remorse.”
Several of Annaleeh’s family members said her death shattered the family and left her sisters guilt-ridden because Annaleeh followed them into the street.
Just prior to sentencing Mr. Angeles Vargas, San Diego Superior Court Judge Robert O. Amador told Annaleeh’s sisters, “None of this, at all, is your fault. I know you are suffering from the loss of your sister, but you also suffer from this feeling that you did something wrong. And none of you did anything wrong. ... If the defendant wasn’t drunk, if he wasn’t selfish, if he didn’t care only about himself, Annaleeh would be here. It is not your fault.”
The judge sentenced Angeles Vargas to the maximum possible prison terms of 15 years to life for second-degree murder and a consecutive four years for hit-and-run. Though the hit-and-run term could have been applied concurrently, Mr. Amador said that among his reasons for imposing consecutive terms was that Mr. Angeles Vargas left the scene “because he didn’t want to face the consequences.”
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