Gustavo Adrian Vega, a 23-year-old Costa Mesa resident and two-time drunken driving convict found guilty by a jury in June of murder, hit-and-run resulting in death and possession of cocaine for the Valentine's Day 2010 crash that killed 20-year-old aspiring model Cara Alexandra Lee, was sentenced today to 20 years and four months to life in state prison.
Lee's mother had told the court her daughter was her life and Vega might as well have hit the mom because the drunk driver took her life as well. according to a statement from prosecutors.
In the early morning hours of Feb. 14, 2010, blitzed Orange Coast College student Vega was driving his 2008 Toyota Tundra on Flower Street when he ran a red light at Sunflower Avenue and struck a 2003 Toyota Corolla making the green on Sunflower. Corolla driver Hao Nguyen, 21, was later taken to Western Medical Center with minor injuries, but his passenger Lee was pronounced dead at the scene.
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Vega ran off to a nearby housing complex, but he was quickly captured by Costa Mesa police officers, who testified he showed objective signs of intoxication including emitting a strong odor of alcohol from his breath, having bloodshot and watery eyes, and performing poorly on field sobriety tests. He had a blood alcohol content of .17 percent, more than twice the legal limit, and was carrying a small amount of cocaine in his pants pocket.
The Orange County District Attorney's office sought the murder count because Vega had pleaded guilty to driving under the influence before in 2006 and signed an acknowledgement that he could be prosecuted for murder if he killed someone while driving under the influence. He also learned about the dangers of drinking and driving in alcohol awareness courses as a condition of his sentence.