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Meriden man pleads guilty in fatal DUI crash that killed 2 kids last year

MERIDEN — A city man accepted a plea deal Wednesday in connection with an accident last year that killed two Meriden children.

Israel Gonzalez, 28, of 108 Ann St., pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, three counts of second-degree assault with a motor vehicle, driving under the influence and evading responsibility.

Superior Court Judge Philip Scarpellino said the agreed sentence is 20 years, suspended after 10 years, and five years probation. The victim’s family sat in the courtroom, visibly upset throughout the hearing. The family had no comment afterward.

Gonzalez is expected to be sentenced April 21.

Police responded to the intersection of Broad Street and Gale Avenue about 2 a.m. on Nov. 3. 2013 for a two-car accident, police have said. A car driving north on Broad Street had stopped at a traffic light when it was struck from behind by a GMC Denali, also driving north on Broad Street, police said.

Two children, 5-year-old Tatiana Cruz and 8-year-old Lorenzo Cruz, died from injuries suffered in the crash. Twelve-year-old Alejandro Schroder, and the children’s’ parents, Michael Cruz and Gina Schroder, of Meriden, were taken to the hospital, police said. Gonzalez was found about 20 minutes later and taken to the hospital, police said.

According to John Lion, a senior assistant state’s attorney, police reports showed Gonzalez was driving 100 miles an hour at the time of the crash and the brakes were not used. According to blood tests at the hospital, Gonzalez’s blood alcohol content was .255, more than three times the legal limit of .08, Lion said.

Both Tatiana and Lorenzo Cruz were killed on impact. Alejandro Schroder suffered a liver laceration, broken ribs and respiratory problems, Lion said. Gina Schroder suffered a broken left leg, lacerated spleen, 18 fractured ribs and spine problems. Michael Cruz suffered a concussion and injuries to his face.

The victims’ family members began crying openly as Lion read the facts of the case aloud in court. The family members wore necklaces with the children’s pictures on them.

The state had offered a plea deal of 20 years, suspended after 12 years, with a right to argue for less time to serve, Scarpellino said. Scarpellino said he did not feel comfortable with the right to argue for less time and offered the deal Gonzalez accepted.

A pre-sentencing report will be prepared. Scarpellino said if information gathered in the report makes him decide more time should be served, he will allow Gonzalez to take his guilty pleas back and the case can go to trial.

Scarpellino said the victims’ attorney was contacted about the offer, and the victims’ family “had no stern objection” to the deal. The victims’ family told the court they would like to speak at the sentencing hearing.

While pleading guilty, Gonzalez looked straight forward and entered his pleas in a barley audible voice with the help of a Spanish interpreter. Gonzalez said he understood the trial rights he was giving up by pleading guilty.

Scarpellino said the maximum time Gonzalez could have received on the charges was 45 years and six months in prison. When asked if he wanted to say anything, Gonzalez said “not now,” through the interpreter.

lsievert@record-journal.com (203) 317-2225 Twitter: @LaurenSievertRJ



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