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Local News

Sentencing Delayed in Case Against Driver Accused of Killing Pedestrian

Family and friends of a man killed in a parking lot behind a Santa Maria bar last year asked a Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge for justice on Thursday after sharing how they were affected by the death of Gerardo “Jerry” Barragon Leon. 

The victim-impact statements occurred before Judge John McGregor postponed sentencing Ismael Lares for the March 16, 2015, death of Leon, 38, of Santa Maria.

Lares, who is represented by Bob Sanger, pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and was set to be sentenced Thursday, according to Deputy District Attorney Tristan Verburgt.

However, Lares reportedly violated the terms of his release from jail, and the judge asked the attorneys to file written briefs regarding whether the defendant should be sentenced to a longer term. 

Instead of the six years under the plea, Lares could face up to 10 years in prison when the judge hands down the sentence on Nov. 3.

In one of several statements made in court, Leon’s best friend, Gabriel Velasco, said the family is heartbroken about his death, which is compounded by the defendant’s lack of remorse as Lares sat beside his attorney with head hanging down.

“They’re not a vengeful family,” Velasco said. “They’re not a hateful family, and they did not deserve such a cowardly act, which I think is what hurts them the most.”

Leon died alone behind Louie B’s bar on East Main Street after being struck by Lares shortly after 1 a.m. 

“There are no words that begin to describe how our lives have been shattered by a careless person,” said Leon’s sister, Elizabeth Eulloqui, adding that the defendant displayed a lack of respect or care for life when he left Leon injured and alone.

Speakers recalled the heart-wrenching reaction their mother had upon learning Leon — the youngest of eight siblings — had died. 

“Her scream for her baby boy will never leave my mind,” Eulloqui said.

“Nothing we will do will ever take that pain away,” she added. ‘It’s too deep in her heart.”

Leon, a father of three, had “the biggest heart in the world,” his niece Natalie Eulloqui said. 

He coached soccer and supported his children in many ways while serving as their biggest cheerleader, speakers said.

He already has missed one daughter’s high school graduation and start of college, plus won’t be around for their weddings. 

Leon will miss many milestones in the life of his 9-year-old son, others said. 

“I ache for him. His dad should have been able to be here for him,” another of Leon’s sisters wrote.

“The amount of sadness and hurt I feel every day cannot be explained,” said Vivian Leon, the oldest of the victim’s three children.

Lares initially was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, fleeing the scene of an accident and driving under the influence.

An officer on patrol spotted the Chevy Silverado racing from a parking lot with tires squealing, and conducted a traffic stop, helping police connect that vehicle with the death of a pedestrian in the parking lot.

“I just hope justice is served, even though there is no punishment that can bring Jerry back,” Velasco told the judge.

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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