Tapu Aniceto Sitagata Faces Murder Count for DUI Crash That Killed His Nephew
Tapu Aniceto Sitagata and his hearty-partying family were kicked out of Newport Five Cocktail Lounge in Tustin in December for getting too rowdy. They were still in the parking lot when the bartender locked up at 2 a.m. So, the bartender offered to call the 27-year-old Santa Ana man a cab. He refused.
Moments later, a Tustin police officer rolled up an ordered Sitagata and remaining family members no to drive. He also offered to call them a cab. They claimed one was coming, so the officer drove off. So did Sitagata,
He now faces charges of murder and other serious felonies and a possible sentence of 20 years and eight months to life in state prison.
According to the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA):
Minutes after the Tustin officer left, Sitagata is accused of getting into the driver's seat of a Chevrolet Suburban and driving away from the bar. The defendant's 20-year-old nephew, Pesa Sitagata, was seated in the back seat and 34-year-old brother-in-law, Aron Ia, was seated in the front passenger seat.
While driving under the influence of alcohol, Sitagata is accused of crashing into a traffic light pole at the intersection of Irvine Center Drive and Culver Drive in Irvine. He is accused of murdering Pesa Sitagata, who died at the scene due to injuries sustained in the crash. Ia sustained serious injuries including fractures to both legs, broken ribs, and a lacerated spleen and liver.
Another driver stopped to see if anyone needed help as Sitagata allegedly stood outside the car and did nothing to help his family members or call 9-1-1. When the man offered to call emergency, Sitagata is accused of telling him not to and running away from the scene on foot. Irvine Police officers captured him after a short chase.
Sitagata is accused of having had a blood alcohol level of .17 percent about an hour and a half after the crash. He had been driving on a suspended license and was on probation for a 2004 misdemeanor driving under the influence conviction. He'd participated in a court-ordered alcohol awareness course. According to the OCDA, "the defendant is accused of having knowledge that driving under the influence of alcohol could result in the death of himself or others."
He was charged with one felony count each of murder, driving under the influence causing bodily injury, driving with a blood alcohol .08 percent or more causing bodily injury, hit and run with injury, and one misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license. He faces sentencing enhancements and allegations for causing great bodily injury and personally inflicting great bodily injury.
Sitagata is being in lieu of $1 million bail.