‘Justice for Desi’: Man sentenced in drunk-driving crash that killed woman

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CLEVELAND  -- The man convicted in a deadly wrong way crash on I-480 was sentenced to 15 years in prison Tuesday.

Julio Vargas was drunk behind the wheel in April when he slammed into a car, killing Desiree Snyder, 22, and injuring her boyfriend, Antonio Rodriguez.

Snyder’s relatives packed the Cuyahoga County courtroom, wearing shirts reading “Justice for Desi.”

“She won't have the chance to finish college, get married or have children of her own. Mr. Vargas took that from her, he took that from all of us,” said Pam Chapman, Desiree’s aunt, who made a statement in court on behalf of the family. “Getting behind the wheel of his girlfriend's vehicle in his drunken state was equivalent to pointing a loaded gun and pulling the trigger.”

Julio Vargas was driving against traffic on I-480 westbound near West 130th Street in Cleveland when he crashed into the car Desiree was riding in on April 5.

Vargas had been previously convicted of DUI and was driving on a suspended license.

“I don’t care about my own pain, my car, nothing. I lost someone perfect that day,” Rodriguez said.

Vargas pleaded no contest to aggravated vehicular homicide and aggravated vehicular assault charges in this case. Before his sentencing, Vargas apologized.

“I really am sorry for your loss,” he said to those gathered in the courtroom. “I didn't mean to do something like that. I feel bad. Every day I feel pain. It's not easy for me, too.”

Judge Stuart Friedman sentenced him to a total of 15 years in prison for the crime. Prosecutors and the victims' families were hoping for the maximum, 19 years behind bars. The family says Vargas’ apology was too little, too late.

“We're furious with this. If this was a first-time mistake, we might be able to find some forgiveness in our hearts and allowance for some lenience,” said Rodriguez’s aunt, Kelly Pelter. “But because it's not, we need to hold these people, these repeat offenders to the maximum.”

In addition to the fifteen-year sentence on two counts, the judge also sentenced Vargas to another three years for several other charges to be served concurrently.

Vargas will face five years of probation once released from prison, and his driver's license is suspended for life.

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