Truck driver heads to prison over 2019 crash that killed two men in Orcutt | local news
Two men killed when a drunk and drowsy truck driver failed to stop at a red light in Orcutt nearly five years ago were remembered during an emotional hearing in a Santa Maria court before the man who caused their deaths was sentenced to state prison.
Gil Patrick Pena, 61, of Orcutt, pleaded guilty in September in Santa Barbara County Superior Court to two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide while intoxicated for deaths resulting from the Feb. 7, 2019, crash.
Pena’s Sysco truck collided with vehicles stopped for a red light on Interstate 135 at Union Valley Parkway.
Rick Jay Motley, 60, of Orcutt, and his passenger, Jesse Donald Gluyas, 25, of Solvang, were killed in the multi-vehicle crash. The VTC Enterprises co-workers were heading to their work site at Vandenberg Space Force Base.
Law enforcement officers confirm that Pena was driving drowsy, and that he had medication in his system on the morning of the crash. Tests showed the presence of Valium, gabapentin and trazodone in his system, all of which list drowsiness as side effects.
Pena, who originally faced two counts of murder for causing the fatal crash, pleaded guilty to lesser charges and avoided trial in the long-awaited case.
Under the plea agreement, Pena was sentenced to 10 years in prison for each man’s death, but he will serve those sentences concurrently.
During victim impact statements, family members shared that Gloyas has special needs but has recently gained independence by holding a full-time job, living on his own and volunteering in the community.
“He spread happiness and joy to everyone he met,” said his sister, Brandi Gluyas, who lost her brother just four years after their father died of cancer.
“He was really proud of everything he was accomplishing, and that was taken away in an instant,” she added.
Liz Orona, Gluyas’ grandmother by marriage, remembered him as charming, funny, incredibly friendly, kind and kind.
“Jessie wasn’t just special needs,” she said. “He was special.”
Instead of enjoying pizza and ice cream with her brother, Brandi Gluyas said, she was reading a statement about her loss in court.
Their grandmother, Donna Gluyas of Solvang, also spoke, saying, “I’m devastated,” and pointed to Pena’s previous driving accidents as well as his actions the morning her grandson and co-worker died.
“The collision was severe, a 60,000-pound truck going 60 miles per hour without making any effort to stop,” Donna Gluyas said.
She added: “Watching the video of the Cisco truck crash, which was originally presented as evidence, and seeing Jill Patrick Pena badly passed out, is something that will never leave my mind and will leave an impact on our family forever.”
In addition to hearing some of the statements, visiting judge Brian Aronson said he also read a number of statements that had been submitted before the hearing.
The Motley family presented a slide show with poignant music, showing the man smiling at family events over the years.
At the beginning of the sentencing hearing, Deputy District Attorney Lindsay Bittner said Pena made a series of choices that led to the deaths of two men.
“This was largely preventable,” she said. “This could have been prevented by Mr. Pena and Mr. Pena alone.”
Defense attorney Robert Sanger noted more than once that his client expressed deep remorse for the incident before Pena spoke briefly.
“I am deeply and profoundly sorry for the pain I have caused the Motley and Gluyas families,” an emotional Pena said. “I’m so sorry.”
Although most in the courtroom had followed the case for nearly five years, the visiting judge said he was unaware of the circumstances until Friday.
“But I was deeply affected,” he said after hearing about the victims. “It appears that the incident could have been avoided, which is why we are here today in criminal court.”
At the end of the session, Pena was handcuffed and detained.
The accident led to civil lawsuits being filed against Sysco Corp., Sysco Ventura, and Pena by the Motley and Gluyas families, along with other motorists.
The two parties are scheduled to meet for mediation in February.
The civil cases are scheduled to return to court on March 6 for a case management conference.
Acknowledging the ongoing civil lawsuit, Aronson reserved restitution in the criminal case and ordered attorneys to return in May.