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Friday, December 14 , 2018, 9:50 pm | Fair 49º


Forklift Driver Sentenced to Nearly 11 Years in Prison for Fatal Crash Near Santa Maria

A man driving a forklift in reverse at a high rate of speed while under the influence of methamphetamine when he collided with a car, killing two people, was sentenced to nearly 11 years in state prison on Thursday.

Daniel Castillo

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge John McGregor handed down Daniel Castillo’s sentence more than a month after a jury convicted the Santa Maria man of four felony charges.

“It’s an incredibly sad case,” McGregor said, adding that “the damage done to the Pozos family can never be undone.”

On Aug. 29, 2013, Castillo was driving a forklift in reverse at a fast speed on Philbric Road near Stowell Road when it collided with a Honda Civic.

The crash instantly killed Adolfo Pozos Carrasco, 16, of Santa Maria and a passenger in the left rear seat, Casilda Diaz Pozos, 49, of Santa Maria. Two other people, Mayte Carrasco and Celiset Pozos, both of Santa Maria, were critically injured in the crash. 

Castillo was convicted of two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, plus driving while under the influence of methamphetamine causing injury, and reckless driving causing serious bodily injury. Jurors also determined several special allegations were true.

During the trial, Castillo maintained he had done methamphetamine the day before the crash and only had a beer several hours beforehand.

However, after his conviction, Castillo admitted to probation officers that he did methamphetamine the day of the crash.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Stephen Foley asked the judge to sentence Castillo to the maximum time of 14 years and eight months, calling the defendant the killer of two people who also destroyed the lives of others.

“In this case it’s important to note the victims are somewhat powerless in the system,” Foley said, adding they didn’t have influential friends to write letters of support as Castillo did. “I will note he never took responsibility for this crime when it mattered.”

Castillo made several false statements, including saying that the Civic was in the wrong lane, during the trial in a bid to escape justice, Foley said.

In sentencing Castillo to 10 years and eight months in prison, the judge rejected attorney Sydney Bennett’s argument that probation would be suitable in this case. 

“He acknowledges this is something he has to live with the rest of his life,” Bennett said, adding Castillo didn’t intend for the tragedy to happen.

She also noted several letters of support submitted on Castillo’s behalf.

McGregor agreed Castillo didn’t mean to hurt anyone but said that would be of little solace to the family of the victims.

The judge said he weighed the factors in the case along with the defendant’s demeanor during the trial in reaching his decision. 

The Probation Department had recommended a sentence of 10 years and eight months.

Castillo received credit for 333 days served and is expected to serve 85 percent of his state prison sentence. He also must pay more than $12,600 in restitution.

After court, Foley called Castillo’s sentence fair and “a step in the right director toward justice” for the victims.

Foley noted the difficulty in investigating and prosecuting people for driving under the influence of drugs — “but it’s a big problem in our community.”

The prosecutor also read part of a statement submitted by the father of the teen who shared the same name.

“I feel horrible. I know I can’t do anything as a father to bring them back,” Foley read from the comments of Adolfo Pozos.

His daughter remains handicapped from her serious injuries, still cannot lift her arm and can barely move her fingers after shattering bones and tendons. She also had lacerations to her head. She faces more surgery, he said, and the whole family has seen a psychiatrist.

“This is just such a senseless loss. The void is huge," the father said. "Our family will never be the same.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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.

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