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Driver Richard Rodriguez Sentenced to 13 Years in Fatal Wrong-Way Crash

Friends and family of victims Marcos Arredondo and Macrina Ocampo fill the courtroom and tell of the lasting effects the tragedy has had on their lives

More than a dozen friends and family members of Marcos Arredondo and Macrina Ocampo spoke in court Tuesday before the sentencing of Richard Rodriguez, the driver in the Nov. 8, 2009, wrong-way Highway 101 collision that killed the two Goleta residents. Judge Rick Brown sentenced Rodriguez to 13 years of prison and to pay restitution to the victims’ families.

Rodriguez was driving under the influence, with a blood alcohol level of .22 percent, before driving the wrong way on Highway 101 and colliding head-on with the vehicle carrying the two victims and Marcos’ younger sisters.

Richard Rodriguez
Richard Rodriguez

Those who spoke Tuesday said through tears that the collision had destroyed their families. The room was filled beyond capacity, with people sitting in the jury box and attorney’s table in the back of the room.

Marcos, 18, was a recent San Marcos High School graduate and one of five children to Jose and Marina Arredondo. His four siblings and parents spoke of the brother and son who was taken from them.

Macrina Ocampo, a single mother of eight and grandmother to many more, was the backbone of the family, said her eldest son, Jose, and losing her has made the family split into different directions.

Brown said his sentence of 13 years did not come easily, but he opted for the upper term sentence of 10 years for the vehicular manslaughter conviction and an additional year for each of the three allegations of great bodily injury.

He said he recognized that the collision caused “multiple tragedies” to all families involved.

“I encourage you to mend yourselves if you can, by helping each other,” he said to the victims’ families.

Marcos’ father, Jose, spoke of Marcos’ ambitions to become a teacher, to help society by molding young minds. He recalled a conversation with Marcos, when his son said his students would remember their lessons later in life when confronted with potentially bad decisions.

“‘They won’t do anything wrong. They’ll remember me,’” Marcos had said.

His sisters, Karina and Yessika, said he was a bright student, a football player for the San Marcos Royals and a brother committed to making those around him laugh. Both girls, seriously injured in the crash, spoke of the lasting physical and emotional impacts of Rodriguez’s actions.

“He left me paralyzed for I don’t know how long,” Yessika said from a wheelchair. “I can’t feel things I’m touching because of him.”

Marcos’ older brother, Jose, mourned his brother and the loss of the little brother-big brother relationship they had. He read a letter written by their mother as well, who was best friends with Ocampo. “Sometimes I feel that I can no longer make it,” she wrote.

Many of Ocampo’s grandchildren stood to express their grief in their loss.

“You get to see your family through a glass window,” Nelly Uribe said. “I will never get to see my grandma again.”

Blaz Uribe remembered his grandmother dancing with the rest of the family at the wedding they all attended the evening of the crash, and how happy she was surrounded by all of her family members.

Article Image
Blaz Uribe, grandson of Macrina Ocampo and friend of Marcos Arredondo, talks on Tuesday with Marcos’ sister Yessika, confined to a wheelchair because of injuries sustained in the crash. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Ocampo was also a nanny for local families, and Kelly Rosenheim remembered her as “small in frame but huge in personality.”

“All our individual worlds were shattered,” including Rodriguez’s, she said.

Rodriguez kept his head bowed until he read his statement, which expressed regret and prayers. “It sickens me to think how you must think of me; I’m not a bad person,” he said.

He began to cry as he asked God to comfort the families he’s affected and asked that they not condemn him as a cold monster, but remember he’s a person with a heart and soul. “I’m a 20-year-old thrown into a very grown-up situation,” he said.

Members of Rodriguez’s family were present but chose not to speak.

His lawyer, Dyke Huish, said Rodriguez never asked for pity and would be haunted by his actions for the rest of his life.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Lee Carter, who prosecuted Rodriguez, asked for the maximum penalty of 19 years.

Rodriguez’s previous driving under the influence arrest, just nine days before the collision, and high blood alcohol level — nearly three times the legal limit of .08 — contributed to the upper term 10-year sentence, Brown said.

Rodriguez will be sent to state prison and most likely have to serve at least 80 percent of his sentence because of the severity of the case, according to Carter.

Donations to the Macrina Ocampo/Marcos Arredondo Memorial Fund can be made through Santa Barbara Bank & Trust.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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