A UC Berkeley alumnus was found guilty on Wednesday of vehicular manslaughter resulting in the deaths of his girlfriend and her 6-year-old son nearly one year ago.
Jose Lumbreras, 25, pleaded no contest on two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for the deaths of 22-year-old UC Berkeley graduate Milanca Lopez and her 6-year-old son, Xavier Chevez. The Alameda County District Attorney’s office is requesting the maximum 12 years in prison, according to Deputy District Attorney Teresa Drenick.
“It is a tremendous relief to know this particular chapter has come to a close without the trauma of what we knew would be a painful trial for her family and friends,” said Rue Mapp, a UC Berkeley graduate and neighbor of Lopez, in an email. “We will continue to celebrate Milanca and Xavier’s lives and remember the beautiful friend and mother she was in our community.”
Paul Wolf, Lumbreras’ defense attorney, disagrees with the prosecution’s pursuit of the maximum sentence. He said Lumbreras has suffered greatly from the accident and that 12 years is too severe for the crime.
“Jose has never denied nor sought to shirk his responsibility for the damage and pain for which he has shared and continues to experience,” Wolf said. “He loved both of them. It’s an accident, and he’s responsible for it.”
Wolf will argue for a lighter penalty during Lumbreras’ sentencing on June 11.
At approximately 1 a.m. on May 18, 2012, Lumbreras drove into a tree in central Berkeley, killing Lopez and seriously injuring Chevez. According to police, his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit.
Chevez was placed on life support and died from his injuries one week later at Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland.
Prior to her death, Lopez and her son lived in university student housing at University Village in Albany. Lopez began studying at UC Berkeley in 2007 and was planning to begin a master’s program for teaching at UCLA following her graduation.
Lumbreras came to UC Berkeley in 2010 after receiving a degree in sociology from UC Santa Barbara. He received a graduate degree from UC Berkeley’s ethnic studies department not long before the accident.
Prior to the collision, the couple was allegedly drinking in celebration of their recent graduations, Wolf said.
Lumbreras is currently being held in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, and his bail is set at $200,000, according to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office inmate locator.
“It’s one of the most tragic cases I’ve ever been involved in, and I’ve been a criminal defense lawyer for 37 years,” Wolf said. “It caused nearly intolerable injury and loss to three people and their respective families.