Ex-Corporal Sentenced for Hit-and-Run Death of Calif. Dad Who Was Returning Home From Sister's Grave

Giovanni Ceja pleaded guilty Jan. 30 to the fatal hit and run

<p>GoFundMe</p> Gilberto Sotelo


Gilberto Sotelo
  • Gilberto Sotelo and his wife had pulled to the side of the California freeway to fill up their truck with gas when prosecutors say Giovanni Ceja drunkenly crashed into the man and his vehicle Aug. 7

  • Giovanni Ceja had returned to Texas by the time California prosecutors identified him

  • The former corporal was sentenced to 15 years to life Tuesday, after taking a plea deal in the high-profile fatal hit and run case

The former Texas sheriff’s correctional corporal, who fatally hit a father of 7 while drunk and on vacation in California, has been convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office announced this week.

Giovanni Ceja crashed his vehicle into Gilberto Sotelo and his parked truck while the father was filling his tank with gas on the shoulder of the freeway in the early morning hours of Aug. 7, then drunkenly drove off, prosecutors said in an earlier press release.

Sotelo, 38, was pronounced dead at the scene, per prosecutors.

Sotelo’s wife, Myra Basulto, who was with him at the time, called 911, according to the family’s GoFundMe post.

<p>Riverside County DA's Office</p> Giovanni Ceja

Riverside County DA's Office

Giovanni Ceja

“He was willing to do anything and everything for anybody,” Basulto told NBC Los Angeles in the days after her husband’s death.

The case drew national attention, gaining momentum in the week between the fatal crash and law enforcement’s positive identification and arrest of the man in the blue car, Veronica Sotelo, who organized the GoFundMe, stated.

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Ceja, 31, was arrested by his own law enforcement agency in San Antonio, Texas, extradited to California and booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center Aug. 27, per prosecutors.

When prosecutors called the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office regarding the arrest, Ceja was reportedly in uniform and on patrol.

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