Truck driver gets six years for deadly Christmas Eve crash

July 20, 2017

Philip Ken Trujillo

A Las Vegas truck driver received a six-year prison sentence for several vehicular manslaughter convictions stemming from a 2014 Christmas Eve crash that killed four San Miguel residents.

Philip Ken Trujillo, 57, entered court on Thursday attempting to get a new trial. But, a San Luis Obispo judge denied his request and promptly sentenced him. Trujillo had faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

On Dec. 24, 2014, Trujillo was returning to his Las Vegas home when he tried to turn left off Highway 101 into a truck stop at Wellsona Road north of Paso Robles. Trujillo’s semi collided with an oncoming minivan.

The crash killed Crystal Lee Reuck, 22; David Castillo, 42; Karen Szasz, 45; and Taylor Swarthout, 22.

Reuck, who was driving the minivan, was reportedly under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the crash. However, evidence of Reuck’s intoxication was excluded from the trial.

When Trujillo attempted to turn left onto Wellsona Road, he made the turn at an estimated 2 mph. Two cars headed southbound managed to avoid Trujillo’s semi.

But, prosecutors said Reuck pulled his big rig in front of an oncoming vehicle.

While police investigated the collision, Trujillo was reportedly overheard taking directions on his cell phone about how to erase the truck’s black box.

In May, a San Luis Obispo jury convicted Trujillo of four counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. The jury delivered guilty verdicts on all four counts.

Last month, Trujillo’s attorney filed a motion requesting a new trial, prompting sentencing to be delayed. One of the issues raised in the motion was that jurors were denied evidence of Reuck having methamphetamine in her system at the time of the crash.

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To make my POINT clear , it would be like I say had 2-3 beers , I am driving perfect and then someone runs a red light and smashes into me . The police arrest me and say its my fault because I was drinking. Does that really sound right ?

In my mind the Ca air resorces board is to blame for this, the truck had gone into “limp” mode, this is when there is a problem with the smog trash that is to blame for a lot of problems in trucks today, remember the Silveraldo bus that got hit by the truck in northern Ca, the t ruck ha d afire going before it hit the bus, down on the lower right side where the smog trash trap is, the buses that catch fire in the engine compartment, thats from the smog trash that is installed there, but this limp mode had already happened several miles back and this guy tried to keep going to a safe place, that didn’t work very well.

There is also not a way to defeat the black box, you can only plug into them with the correct equipment to read it.

So its CAL-AIR to blame ? Are you serious ? Where are you guys from ? Another planet ?

Perhaps obstruction of justice should been charged due the alleged tampering…anything else will definitely be subject to an appeal.

“Evidence of Reuck’s intoxication was excluded from the trial.” Why?

Yeah, this whole thing was a bummer all around. Sure, the Truck Driver screwed himself by trying to erase the black box, but the reality is: some meth-heads hit an, essentially, immobile object. That is, they had no control of their vehicle, as all the other drivers who stopped or avoided the turning rig.

Our legal system is becoming a joke.

So,you have a crystal ball that tells you exactly what happened? You cannot possibly make the determination that Reuck was at fault from the information given, Suppose, for example, that the two vehicles that escaped were in the #2 (right) lane, and Reuck was in the #1 lane; the truck turns into the path of the oncoming traffic, the two cars make it around the truck, but Reuck’s vehicle is blocked by the other two and can’t get around. How could that possibly be Reuck’s fault? The fault is ENTIRELY the truck driver’s. Who was traveling straight down the hiway, and who was turning across oncoming traffic? Totally the truck driver’s responsibility to make sure the way was clear. A CHP officer once told me that if you make a move in traffic that forces a driver to take evasive action,you have violated their right-of-way. Clearly the truck driver’s fault. Go beat your anti-drug drum somewhere else!

“Reuck, who was driving the minivan, was reportedly under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the crash.”

This story is very short on details regarding why Trujillo was found guilty, except for his attempt to cover up black box evidence. There was no claim he was intoxicated and it sounds like a tragic accident. An accident where the the driver of the victims’ car was high on meth, but that fact was not allowed to be presented in court.

Our legal system is a mess. The average taxpayer will be footing the bill for the guaranteed appeal in this case.