137 Years For DUI

DRUNKEN DRIVER GETS 137 YEARS FOR 9 CRASH VICTIMS

Wednesday, July 17, 1996

By: Associated Press

A drunken driver got nine prison terms for nine lives lost in a
flaming freeway accident on Father’s Day 1995. The total sentence for
Teodolo Bermudes was 137 years, eight months, without chance of parole.
”When I first learned the details of this case, I was heartsick over
it,” Superior Court Judge J. Thompson Hanks said when handing down the
sentence Monday. ”He killed a whole family. It’s beyond tragic.”

Bermudes was convicted last month on nine counts of second-degree
murder for causing a wreck on Highway 60 near the junction with
Interstate 10 outside Beaumont.

The family of Jose Rodriguez and Mercedes Diaz de Rodriguez, packed
into a 1968 Plymouth Valiant, was struck from behind by Bermudes’
fast-moving Ford pickup. Witnesses said the truck had been weaving. The
Valiant flipped and burst into flames.

Bermudes kept going but was arrested in nearby Banning. The parents
and a small daughter were pulled from the burning car, but the girl died
from burns a month later. Four of the Rodriguez children, three
grandchildren, their adult daughter and the father of two grandchildren
were killed.

Witnesses testified that Bermudes had been drinking all day and had
enough alcohol in his blood to equal 10 to 12 beers. Hanks said he owed
the Rodriguez family equal punishment for every life lost. The parents
weren’t in court Monday.

Bermudes got 15 years to life for each death, plus two years, eight
months for six related felony and misdemeanor drunken driving charges.
”With all due respect, I have asked for forgiveness five times,” said
Bermudes, 36, a landscaper from Cathedral City. ”Not so that charges be
removed or punishment lightened. In public, I am regretful for what I
have done.” ”He is a decent, conscientious, hard-working fellow,” said
Bermudes’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Frank Scott. ”But he is an
alcoholic.”

Prosecutor Creg Datig told the judge Bermudes was a threat because he
couldn’t seem to control the urge to drive while intoxicated. Bermudes
had two previous drunken driving arrests.

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

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