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'He robbed the world of a very kind and compassionate person': Driver gets 6 years for deadly crash

Hector Frias-Chavarria pleaded guilty to one count of vehicular homicide DUI and five counts of vehicular assault DUI.

WATKINS, Colo. — A drunk driver who was chasing down another driver after a minor traffic incident was sentenced to six years in prison for killing a 19-year-old woman in rural Arapahoe County in 2019, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office.

Arapahoe District Court Judge Eric White sentenced Hector Frias-Chavarria, 24, on Sept. 23 after he pleaded guilty in February to one count of vehicular homicide DUI and five counts of vehicular assault DUI for the crash that killed Valerie Vigil and seriously injured five other people. 

Other counts were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

“Not only did this defendant choose to drink and drive – he also went into a rage and chased another driver,” said District Attorney John Kellner. “Road rage and DUI can both be deadly on their own, and he combined them with terrible consequences for Ms. Vigil, her family, and five other people.”

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On Sept. 8, 2019, Frias-Chavarria was driving his white Dodge Ram 1500 pickup on Watkins Road in unincorporated Arapahoe County, north of East Jewel Avenue and south of I-70. Frias-Chavarria had been involved in a minor traffic incident and was chasing the other vehicle, a gray Dodge Ram 1500 pickup.

Frias-Chavarria moved to pass the gray Dodge Ram; when he did this, he collided head-on at 60 mph with a Volkswagen Jetta in which Vigil was a passenger. The gray Dodge Ram then crashed into Frias-Chavarria’s pickup.

Credit: Arapahoe County
Hector Frias-Chavarria

Frias-Chavarria received minor injuries; his passenger sustained serious injuries.

The driver of the gray Dodge Ram received moderate injuries; his two juvenile passengers received minor injuries.

The driver of the Jetta and three of her passengers all sustained serious injuries. Front-seat passenger Vigil was declared dead at the scene.

Credit: 18th Judicial District
Valerie Vigil

The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, Aurora Police Department, South Metro Fire Rescue and Colorado State Patrol all responded to the horrific crash, which tore the engine and transaxle from the Jetta and threw them into a nearby field. CSP was the investigating agency.

Vigil’s father, three siblings, grandmother, friends and some of those who were in the car with Vigil when she died attended the sentencing hearing.

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“This defendant made the decision to drink and get in his truck with passengers and cause this violent wreck that caused the gruesome death of my daughter,” her father told the court. “He robbed the world of a very kind and compassionate person …. This is not about revenge – it is about justice.”

The case was prosecuted by Senior Deputy District Attorney Casey Brown who asked the judge to impose a sentence of eight years which is the maximum sentence allowed under the plea agreement.

“The defendant was involved in a minor collision, then a road rage incident ensued. He wouldn’t let it go, and he pursued the other driver, attempting to pass him in oncoming lanes,” Brown said. “His blood-alcohol level at the time was well above legal limits, which impacted his decision-making and resulted in this terrible, irreversible outcome. The magnitude of this loss cannot be put into words.