DENVER (KDVR) — While millions have signed a petition urging clemency for the trucker in a deadly Interstate 70 crash, one victim in the case is speaking out on what she thinks should happen.
Valerie Robertson Young will never forget the drive she took on April 25, 2019. She had just hung up the phone with her daughter as she drove eastbound on I-70 at Denver West.
“Looked in the mirror and saw a truck coming fast,” she said.
The big rig, driven by Rogel Aguilera-Mederos — now sentenced to 110 years in prison for his role — came crashing in.
“Next thing I know, he hit us,” she said. “Huge fire.”
Young scrambled to get out of her vehicle, snapping photos of the fireball that erupted when Aguilera-Mederos crashed into more than two dozen stopped vehicles and four semitrailers in Lakewood, killing four people and hurting at least 10 more.
She soon encountered Aguilera-Mederos. She said he asked to use her cell phone.
“He just kept saying, ‘I gotta get out of here. I can’t go to jail,’” Young said.
Now living in Nebraska, Young said she thinks Aguilera-Mederos should serve the 110 years to which he was sentenced — or at least half.
How does sentence compare elsewhere?
Leonard Martinez, an attorney for Aguilera-Mederos, said other cases across the country prove 110 years is excessive and thinks clemency is warranted. He cited a Nebraska case in which a truck driver was sentenced to a few years after killing three people in a crash.
“Here’s a kid that woke up that morning with one purpose in mind and that is to work and provide for his family and had no malintent to have this accident or injure anybody that day, let alone have four people killed,” Martinez said.
But Young still bore witness to what happened that day.
“I had to watch those four men burn alive,” she said through tears. “That’s not something I’m ever gonna forget.”