Saturday, August 29, 2015

N.J. man pleads guilty to killing friend in DUI crash


A Mullica Hill man pleaded guilty Friday to vehicular homicide and driving while intoxicated in connection with a crash that killed his friend.

Rufino Lopez-Cruz, 35, acknowledged he was impaired March 23, when the SUV he was driving flipped over in East Greenwich Township. Lopez-Cruz’s passenger and roommate, 59-year-old Santos Perez, died of chest injuries at Cooper Medical Center.

Investigators said Lopez-Cruz’s blood alcohol content after the crash was .162, more than twice the legal limit.

Assistant Gloucester County prosecutor Bryant Flowers will recommend that Lopez-Cruz be sentenced to 5 years in state prison with no parole eligibility until he serves 85 percent of the jail term. Lopez-Cruz would also be subject to 3 years of post-incarceration parole supervision, a 7-month suspension of his driver’s license and a $500 fine. Perez’s family reviewed the terms of the plea agreement, according to prosecutors.

Speaking through an interpreter, Lopez-Cruz said he was a Mexican national living in the United States illegally. He added he was aware that, pending a decision from immigration authorities, he could be deported after he serves his proposed prison sentence. 

Lopez-Cruz will be scheduled April 4. He has been jailed in default of bail since the crash occurred nearly a year ago.

Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

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