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Ex-Con Gets 49 Years to Life for Crash That Killed Woman, 5 Dogs

Ex-Con Gets 49 Years to Life for Crash That Killed Woman, 5 Dogs

A courtroom at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles on March 16, 2009. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

City News Service

City News Service

10/18/2023

Updated: 10/18/2023

LONG BEACH, Calif.—An ex-con convicted of second-degree murder for fleeing from police in a stolen van and striking an SUV, killing a local dog walker and five of the six canines she was transporting, was sentenced to 49 years to life in prison Oct. 18.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Richard Goul said the case of Javier Olivarez Jr. was “highly disturbing,” noting that the defendant made a series of choices, including engaging in a high-speed chase, and continuing to travel at high speed even after a Long Beach police officer abandoned the pursuit.
Along with the murder charge, Mr. Olivarez was convicted May 18 of six counts of animal cruelty and one count each of evading a police officer causing death, and driving or taking a vehicle without consent.
The case against Mr. Olivarez, 48, stemmed from the May 7, 2019, death of Jessica Bingaman, whose black Ford Escape was struck at the intersection of Third Street and Temple Avenue.
Ms. Bingaman, a 41-year-old single mother from Long Beach who operated a local dog walking and dog training business, died from blunt torso trauma that day at a local hospital.
Four of the dogs in the vehicle with her—Indy, Toots, Scout, and Maggie Moo—died at the scene, with a fifth, Sasha, dying after being rushed to a local pet hospital. The sixth dog, Bella, was seriously injured but survived, Deputy District Attorney Karen Brako told the Long Beach jury.
Long Beach Police Department headquarters in Long Beach, Calif., on Nov. 2, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Long Beach Police Department headquarters in Long Beach, Calif., on Nov. 2, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

During his sentencing hearing Wednesday, Mr. Olivarez apologized to the victim’s family.
The defendant said he was “lost in drugs” at the time and wouldn’t have fled if he were in his right state of mind, saying that it hurts him that he has put the victim’s family through so much pain.
“I apologize. I’m sorry,” he said.
Mr. Olivarez had a criminal record dating back to 2002, including a 2011 robbery conviction that was a prior strike, which resulted in his sentence on the murder count being doubled.
His attorney, Efren Navar, told the judge that he had “no intention of hurting or killing anybody,” and that his client’s drug addiction began after his children’s mother took their kids out of his life.
The prosecutor countered that the defendant was “hell-bent on not going back to jail” and caused the deaths of “six innocent souls.”
Police said shortly before the crash that Ms. Bingaman was driving northbound in a black 2013 Ford Escape on Temple Avenue after stopping at a stop sign on Third Street when her compact crossover SUV was struck by the van, which was heading eastbound on Third Street and failed to stop at a stop sign. Four other vehicles parked along the street were also struck.
Data from the van’s black box showed that the stolen van was traveling at 71 mph just five seconds before the crash and then at 68 mph one second before the collision in an area with a 25 mph speed limit, and a blood test subsequently performed on Mr. Olivarez confirmed the presence of methamphetamine and amphetamine in his blood, according to the prosecutor.
Mr. Olivarez’s attorney told jurors in his opening statement that what happened was a “tragic accident” that led to the deaths of the woman and five of the dogs in her care.
Mr. Navar said jurors would have to determine whether what happened was a murder, adding that he wanted them to acquit his client of the murder charge.
Los Angeles Superior Court Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles Hills, Calif., on March 2, 2004. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Superior Court Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles Hills, Calif., on March 2, 2004. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Teri Lyn Miller, who lives near the scene of the collision, testified that she heard sirens and then saw a “white blur” that went by “so fast” before hearing the crash.
“It was just horrific, very loud, the metal, the impact, very loud,” she said. “I said, ‘I can’t imagine, you know, anybody surviving what I heard. It was so horrific.’”
Two other people who were near the scene of the crash, including one who described hearing what she said sounded like “an explosion,” said they didn’t remember hearing sirens before the collision.
Mr. Olivarez—who was arrested the day of the crash—has remained behind bars since then. He was initially charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence involving Ms. Bingaman’s death, with the murder charge subsequently replacing that count.
Ms. Bingaman, who was survived by her then-10-year-old daughter, was a familiar sight in the community, where she walked dogs—sometimes about a half-dozen at a time—for clients. More than 100 people turned out for a candlelight vigil in her honor the day after she was killed.
Ms. Bingaman’s mother, who is now raising her 15-year-old granddaughter, said she didn’t feel that Mr. Olivarez was truly remorseful.
“He was doing it to put it on a show,” the victim’s mother, Don-Ann Lawson, told reporters after the sentencing.
She said she hoped that Mr. Olivarez would spend the rest of his life behind bars.
“I don’t ever want to have him out in society again to do this to anyone else,” Ms. Lawson said.
Ann Hovatter, who owned the 3-year-old German shepherd named Scout, said she has gotten a tattoo with footprints and paw prints to honor Ms. Bingaman and the five dogs who died that day.
“It was incomprehensible,” Ms. Hovatter said of the crash.
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