Santa Rosa man to be sentenced in freeway crash that killed teen

A Santa Rosa man will be sentenced Friday after he was convicted of charges related to a July Highway 101 crash that killed his passenger, a 16-year-old girl.

Jhovanne Velazquez is facing up to five years in prison after pleading no contest on Oct. 20 to charges of hit-and-run, vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence and driving without a valid license, Sonoma County’s Chief Deputy Public Defender Jeff Mitchell said.

“Whether he gets probation is to be determined by the court,” Mitchell added.

Velazquez is scheduled to appear in Sonoma County Superior Court at 9 a.m. Friday. Proceedings will be overseen by Superior Court Judge Mark Urioste.

The 27-year-old Velazquez has been in custody at the Sonoma County Jail since his arrest on July 28 — four days after the crash that killed Yaquelin Garcia Magdaleno.

She and Velazquez, who shared a home with the teen and her mother, were returning from a party in Napa when they crashed less than 5 miles from their northwest Santa Rosa home around 3 a.m. July 24.

Investigators determined they were headed north in a Toyota Camry when they drifted off the freeway, near Yolanda Avenue.

The car went down an embankment and through a ditch before hitting a chain link fence and two trees. It landed upside down near a shopping center parking lot between the freeway and Santa Rosa Avenue.

Authorities found Magdaleno’s body in the front passenger seat of the car, which had been engulfed in flames. She was burned beyond recognition, CHP Officer Cyril Ruffin wrote in a search warrant.

The driver had fled the scene.

“Velazquez walked away as 16-year-old Yaquelin Garcia (Magdaleno) remained inside the burning car. Velasquez then fabricated a story about being jumped by strangers and dropped on Santa Rosa Avenue in order to explain his injuries and his location close to the crash site,” Ruffin wrote.

Velazquez wasn’t seen until six hours after the crash when he arrived at his home on Apache Street.

According to the search warrant, a bloodied Velazquez told Magdaleno’s mother he had been attacked by unspecified people at an unspecified location before being left on Santa Rosa Avenue.

He left when Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies showed up to notify Sandra Magdaleno about her daughter’s death that morning.

Afterward, Sandra Magdaleno told CHP investigators she believed Velazquez had been driving the car and that lacerations on his arms, a gouge to the side of his head and a swollen eye were not consistent with him being attacked.

Investigators went to the home and collected bloody clothing similar to that worn by someone who appeared in surveillance footage of the crash site that was obtained from a camera at a nearby Ross Dress for Less department store.

By that point, investigators learned Velazquez’s sister had dropped him off at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital for his injuries around 10 a.m. July 24, but he never checked himself in and stopped answering phone calls from his family and investigators.

They tracked down Velazquez after contacting his mother, who explained she had picked him up and they were together at her Sonoma home.

He explained over the phone that he woke up on Santa Rosa Avenue with injuries and an unknown bystander helped him make phone calls to arrange transportation home that morning.

Velazquez agreed to meet with investigators the night of July 25, but he never showed up.

They obtained a search warrant for his mother’s home and, on July 28, announced Velazquez was in custody.

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at On Twitter @colin_atagi.

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