Fatal rollover prelim delayed

Family members of the victims of the fatal accident Dec. 9 in Six Mile Canyon, in which Robert De La O died, speak out after a Storey County Justice Court hearing  Friday. Robert's sister Janet De La O, center, Robert's girlfriend, Carla Roman, 16, left, and Jose and  Alijandriana Elizondo, parents of Jose      Elizondo, 16, who was injured in the accident, all expressed concern that defendant Darin Vandenberg pleaded to a misdemeanor  Friday.

Family members of the victims of the fatal accident Dec. 9 in Six Mile Canyon, in which Robert De La O died, speak out after a Storey County Justice Court hearing Friday. Robert's sister Janet De La O, center, Robert's girlfriend, Carla Roman, 16, left, and Jose and Alijandriana Elizondo, parents of Jose Elizondo, 16, who was injured in the accident, all expressed concern that defendant Darin Vandenberg pleaded to a misdemeanor Friday.

Virginia City - The father of a teen injured in a fatal rollover on Six Mile Canyon Road last month is angered that one of the men charged in the wreck pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor on Friday in Storey County Justice Court.

"I think this is a joke. I'm furious!" said Roman Villa, whose son Sam was hurt in the Dec. 9 accident. "My son still has glass in his elbow and his pelvis is all screwed up."

According to Storey County investigators, Randy Boyd and Daren Vandenberg both 22, got into a physical dispute with Robert De La O, 16; Sam Villa, 17; Jose Elizondo Jr., 18; and David Flores, 17; at the Occidental Mini Mart in Dayton before allegedly chasing De La O's Lincoln Continental up Six Mile Canyon Road.

The chase ended when the Lincoln struck a guardrail and overturned.

Boyd and Vandenberg fled, as did an injured Villa and Flores. Elizondo had to be cut from the wreck. On Friday, he was at court on crutches with pins holding together his ankle. De La O was fatally injured.

Boyd was originally charged with reckless driving causing death and failure to render aid. Vandenberg was charged with conspiracy on each count.

On Wednesday, District Attorney Harold Swafford amended the criminal complaints, adding felony battery with a deadly weapon to Boyd's charges.

The complaint alleges Boyd struck the Lincoln with his truck, which sent it into the guardrail.

For the charge of conspiracy against Vandenberg, Swafford alleged Vandenberg "egged" on Boyd, saying "Get them, get them."

But on Friday, just as a preliminary hearing was to begin with 11 prosecution witnesses subpoenaed and waiting to testify, Vandenberg's defense attorney, John Schlegelmilch, announced a plea agreement had been reached, and his client would plead to misdemeanor obstructing or delaying an investigation.

"I would just like to apologize for my actions. I should not have left the scene. I'm sorry," Vandenberg said.

"Mr. Vandenberg, not every judgment we make in our lives is a good one, some of them are shockingly bad," acting Justice of the Peace Laura Grant said. "For your part in these events there is a consequence."

She then sentenced Vandenberg to 96 hours of community service, a suspended sentence of 30 days in jail, one year probation and $1,132 in fines and court fees.

She also agreed to continue Boyd's preliminary hearing to allow his defense attorney time to prepare on the amended charge.

Following the hearing, Swafford said he agreed to Vandenberg's plea because the conspiracy evidence wasn't there, and that Vandenberg was never informed of his right to remain silent when he spoke with police.

For Roman Villa, Swafford's explanation makes no sense.

"There was a loss of life here. The driver has a lot of fault, but also the passenger does because he was an accomplice. The two were in a fight, the two were in the chase," he said. "There is a saying in Spanish, 'tanto peca el que mata la vaca como el que detiene la pata,' which translates in English as 'The sin is the same for the person that killed the cow as the one who held the leg of the cow.'"

Villa said he has little faith in the proceedings.

"Mark my words, this other guy is going to get off. You watch."

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at fnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.

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