A 22-year-old Fairfax County man who ran over a mother and son, killing the boy, was found guilty of all four charges against him.
Victor Aldana was drunk and possibly high when he suddenly drove off Alexandria's busy Duke Street last Jan. 15 and hit Maria Chavez and Brian Hernandez-Chavez as they walked hand in hand on a pedestrian footpath, prosecutors said.
The third-grader was pronounced dead at the scene and his mother suffered severe injuries, including broken legs and a broken pelvis.
Evidence presented in the two-day trial showed Aldana's blood alcohol level was 0.15 when it was measured four hours after the crash. A forensic scientist testified it might have been as high as 0.23 when Aldana drove off the road.
Prosecutors also suggested Aldana was high from sniffing difluoroethane from an aerosol can. They produced security video from a CVS store that showed Aldana buying Dust-Off just minutes before the crash. The can was found in the car with the safety valve removed.
"An inexperienced driver without a license, driving while intoxicated, is a disaster waiting to happen and that is exactly what happened,” Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Molly Sullivan said in her closing argument.
Earlier in the day, Maria Chavez began to cry as a paramedic described finding her son laying lifeless in the grass of the I-395 cloverleaf. CPR attempts failed.
Aldana's defense attorneys argued his actions were negligent but did not constitute the "gross, wanton and culpable conduct to show a reckless disregard for human life" needed to find him guilty of DUI manslaughter. The defense called a forensic engineer to the stand who testified that when Aldana left the road and knocked over a signpost, it pierced his brake line, draining it of fluid. He then hit the mother and son. Said Aldana's defense attorney, "From the time he hit the sign there was nothing he could do. There was nothing any driver could do ... These were circumstances no driver could recover from."
But Judge James Clark found Aldana guilty of all charges: manslaughter, DUI maiming, DUI and driving without a license. He told the defendant, "You made the conscious decision to consume way too much alcohol."
Maria Chavez declined to comment on the verdict. She must still walk with the aid of a cane and will have metal rods and screws in her body for the rest of her life.
Aldana will be sentenced Aug. 2. He faces up to 26 years in prison.