Attorney in fatal hit-run case granted mitigation hearing
The man who pleaded guilty to a hit-and-run murder of a pedestrian will have to wait until next month to find out how long he will have to serve in prison.
Joseph Dildine, 26, was scheduled to be sentenced in Yuma County Superior Court Wednesday morning, but when Superior Court Judge David Haws, who is presiding over the case, said that he intended on imposing a 2-1/2-year prison sentence, Dildine's attorney Michael Donovan wasted no time in asking for a mitigation hearing.
During an aggravation and mitigation hearing, the defense has an opportunity to present evidence as to the existence of factors that could lead to the sentence being reduced. A prosecutor also gets to present evidence as to why the sentence shouldn't be reduced or even be harsher, which is what prosecutor William Katz informed the court he intends to do.
Haws scheduled the mitigation hearing for 3 p.m. on Feb. 6, with the sentencing on Feb. 13.
Dildine pleaded guilty to one count of leaving the scene of an accident involving a death in a plea agreement in December. He admitted that he had been drinking beer, whiskey and rum before the incident, and a records check revealed that he was driving on a suspended license at the time.
In return for Dildine's guilty plea, one count each of aggravated DUI and negligent homicide against him was dropped. He has been in custody on $100,000 bond since his arrest
Yuma police responded to a report of a man down in the 3800 block of West 24th Street at about 4:21 a.m. on July 3 and found 19-year-old pedestrian Christopher Humbert lying in the road. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The initial investigation revealed that he had been struck by a vehicle between approximately 4 and 4:21 a.m. Police said they had an approximate time because he was dropped off in the area by someone.
Evidence at the scene indicated that the vehicle involved may have been a 2002 or newer full-sized gray or another light color Dodge pickup, possibly with four doors. The vehicle also had a front license plate of an American flag and bald eagle and possible damage in the center of the front bumper, grill and hood.
Yuma police arrested Dildine at about 11:23 a.m. on July 11 when an off-duty Yuma police officer spotted a vehicle matching the suspect's vehicle in the 4600 block of West Sharon Lane.
According to court records, on the morning of the incident, Dildine was driving westbound on 24th Street approaching Avenue C when he struck Humbert, who was standing in the center line street markings.
Court records also indicated that, when questioned by police, Dildine said he initially thought he had hit a curb. It wasn't until the following morning, when he saw the amount of damage to his pickup, that he thought he might have hit someone.
It was also indicated in court records that even after he learned Yuma police were looking for the driver who was involved, Dildine did not contact authorities.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.