DENVER – A Jefferson County jury on Friday found Rogel Aguilera-Mederos guilty of the most serious charges he faced, including vehicular homicide, for his actions in an April 2019 crash on Interstate 70 in which he crashed his semi-truck into stopped traffic in Lakewood, killing four people.
The jury deliberated into Friday afternoon after prosecutors and Aguilera-Mederos’s defense counsel made closing statements in the multi-week trial Friday morning.
Aguilera-Mederos, 25, faced 42 counts at the trial that started Sept. 28 after jury selection, including vehicular homicide, first-degree assault, attempted first-degree assault, reckless driving and careless driving.
The jury found him guilty on all four counts of vehicular homicide and all six counts of first-degree assault he faced after hours of deliberations. He was also convicted on multiple counts of careless driving, reckless driving, and vehicular assault, though the jury found he was not guilty on several counts of attempted first-degree assault.
Aguilera-Mederos had previously pleaded not guilty to all the counts he faced.
On April 25, 2019, he was driving a semi-truck carrying lumber on eastbound I-70 down from the mountains into Lakewood. He told police he had lost control of his brakes, and when he encountered traffic that was stopped because of another crash on I-70, he drove on the shoulder before crashing into traffic at the Colorado Mills Parkway overpass.
Twenty-eight vehicles, including four semi-trucks, were damaged or caught on fire in the wake of the fiery crash. Investigators estimated he was going at least 85 miles an hour just before the crash.
Four people died in the crash from different vehicles and at least six others were injured, and the eastbound lanes of I-70 were closed in the area for more than a day. Aguilera-Mederos was working for a Houston-based trucking company at the time.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Aguilera-Mederos could have taken steps to prevent the deadly crash, including using a runaway truck ramp miles before the crash, and that he “made a bunch of bad decisions” instead. His defense attorneys claimed he did not know the truck’s brakes were smoking or that he would not be able to stop his truck, though others testified at the trial that they had seen them smoking
Because the truck was completely destroyed in the crash, investigators were not able to inspect the truck to see if the brakes were working, the district attorney said in May 2019.
Aguilera-Mederos testified at his own trial on Thursday, saying it was his first time driving the truck through the mountains and that he had planned to drive on the shoulder until the highway leveled out but another semi-truck parked on the shoulder made him swerve and run into traffic.
“I thought, ‘Dear God, don’t let anything bad happen,’” he recounted in court on Thursday, as reported by The Denver Post.
Aguilera-Mederos was remanded into custody following the verdict. Pre-sentence reports will take at least six weeks, prosecutors said. Judge A. Bruce Jones set a sentencing hearing of Dec. 13 at 1:30 p.m.