A Santa Maria Valley man originally charged with double murder for driving under the influence of drugs and causing his truck to slam into multiple vehicles in Orcutt, killing two people, has changed his plea to guilty on lesser charges.
Gil Patrick Pena, 61, pleaded guilty Thursday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court to two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for the deaths of two men in the Feb. 7, 2019, crash.
Pena’s Sysco truck plowed into vehicles that were stopped for a red light on Highway 135 at Union Valley Parkway, and he originally faced a pair of murder charges for causing the fatal crash.
Rickie Jay Motley, 60, of Orcutt and his passenger, Jesse Donald Gluyas, 24, of Solvang, were killed in the crash.
Several other vehicles also were involved in the crash, but those drivers received minor injuries.
Law enforcement officers contend Pena was driving while drowsy, and that he had medication in his system the morning of the crash.
During a December 2019 preliminary hearing, the judge watched several video clips showing Pena on the morning of the crash, including a camera capturing him appearing to fall asleep while driving.
A second camera on board the truck captured the deadly collision, prompting tears from the victims’ relatives in the audience.
Other video footage showed Pena driving erratically before the crash, and a recording from a business revealed Pena’s truck running a red light at Foster Road.
Tests revealed Pena had a blood alcohol content of 0.018, a level not reportable by some laboratories, according to testimony in the preliminary hearing.
He also had valium, gabapentin and trazodone in his system, all of which list drowsiness among side effects.
During the preliminary hearing, Pena’s attorney, Robert Sanger, contended the tests revealed the medications were at therapeutic levels.
Sanger also disputed allegations arising from Pena’s stop at the 7-Eleven store, where he can be seen taking pills while drinking from a can with a silver bottom, which law enforcement officers believed to be beer.
The defense attorney contended there was “absolutely no evidence he was drinking beer when he was taking pills.”
Pena’s case has lagged in the court system, with a trial remaining elusive due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then the defense attorney’s busy caseload, including representing Paul Flores, who was convicted of killing Cal Poly freshman Kristin Smart more than 25 years ago.
A 10-week jury trial had been set to start in early December before Judge Patricia Kelly.
Under the plea deal, Pena will be sentenced to 10 years in state prison, Deputy District Attorney James Simson said.
Additionally, he waived 6 months of credits for time he served in jail after being arrested.
Pena was ordered to return to court for sentencing on Nov. 17 in Kelly’s courtroom.