Pixel Tracker

Monday, March 25 , 2019, 1:46 pm | Fair 62º

 
 
 
 

Driver in Hit-and-Run Death of Simon Chavez Pleads Guilty, Gets Year in Jail

The man accused of felony hit-and-run driving in an freeway collision that killed former Santa Barbara High School baseball coach Simon Chavez has changed his plea to guilty, and will serve one year in Santa Barbara County Jail, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Lau Van Huynh, 78, of Murrieta, changed his plea Thursday and will be sentenced April 4.

In addition to jail time, he will be on felony probation for three years. If he violates that probation, he faces four years in prison.

“Mr. Chavez’s family, friends and community are devastated by this tragedy, as they all deeply miss their gifted young victim,” District Attorney Joyce Dudley said.

On Jan. 15, Huynh was driving southbound on Highway 101 and hit Chavez, “who was stumbling and staggering in the (righthand) lane of the US-101 southbound,” Dudley said in a statement Friday.

Huynh did not stop to render aid or call 9-1-1 and kept driving. Chavez was pronounced dead at the scene a few minutes after authorities arrived.

At Huynh’s preliminary hearing in early February, Superior Court Judge Clifford Anderson ruled there was enough evidence to send him to trial.

The case was being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Sanford Horowitz, and Huynh is represented by attorney Peter Chang. Huynh listened to the proceedings through a Vietnamese translator.

California Highway Patrol officers testified that Chavez’s body was found just after 1 a.m. Jan. 15 on the freeway near the Ortega Street footbridge. CHP found pieces of a white 2011 Hyundai Tucson, including the driver-side mirror, at the gruesome scene and police arrested Huynh 11 days later.

Investigators found a vehicle matching the description in Huynh’s garage that had blood and hair fragments on the mirror and what appeared to be a “blue streak” on the driver’s side, which officers testified could be from the denim jeans Chavez was wearing.

In a statement Friday, Dudley commended the CHP and the Chumash Casino Resort for the investigation, which revealed that a white Hyundai with Huynh driving left the casino in Santa Ynez at 12:33 a.m. Jan. 15. That information helped officials identify and locate the vehicle.

“Hit and runs causing injury or death are on the rise,” Dudley said. “We all must be vigilant and make sure all drivers can, and do, remain focused on driving, because as we have seen too many times, cars can become deadly weapons. Further, every driver has the obligation to call 9-1-1 if they believe they have hit anyone or damaged any property.”

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today!

Our professional journalists work tirelessly to report on local news so you can be more informed and engaged in your community. This quality, local reporting is free for you to read and share, but it's not free to produce.

You count on us to deliver timely, relevant local news, 24/7. Can we count on you to invest in our newsroom and help secure its future?

We provide special member benefits to show how much we appreciate your support.

Email
I would like give...
Great! You're joining as a Red-Tailed Hawk!
  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.