MEDINA — One courtroom went to great lengths Thursday to accommodate a language barrier with an undocumented Guatemalan immigrant who pleaded guilty to causing a fatal car crash while intoxicated in June.
Mateo Ralios Delacruz, 22, pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular assault and receiving a stolen motor vehicle. The charges — first-, third- and fourth-degree felonies — could land Ralios behind bars for up to 17½ years.
At least three years in prison are mandatory, according to the Ohio Revised Code.
Thursday was the second time Ralios tried to change his plea. At his first hearing in October, Spanish interpreter John Shaklee said he realized Ralios spoke K’iche, a Mayan dialect of the language.
Shaklee was called in again for Thursday’s hearing, and Oregon-based K’iche interpreter A. Teresa Kilpatrick participated via speaker phone.
Terry George, bailiff to Medina County Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier, said the court held the hearing in a conference room at the county Administration Building instead of the courthouse so they could put Kilpatrick on a speaker phone there.
Collier said Ralios would be sentenced near the end of January, but the court needed to consult with Kilpatrick and Shaklee to find a date at which they are all available.
Also present at the hearing were family of Chad Nelson, who died in the crash; Eric Kaskevic, who was injured in the crash and attended in a leg brace and on crutches; Ralios’ attorney, Job Perry, and county Prosecutor Dean Holman.
Holman said the case was tragic.
“Mr. Nelson has done multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he was on his way to work at the time this collision occurred,” he said. “Mr. Kaskevic has suffered serious physical injuries, and he’s still recuperating. He spent close to a month in the hospital.
“It didn’t need to happen.”
Holman has said Ralios probably would be deported after serving his sentence.
Ralios said he was guilty of crashing a Ford Fusion — which he stole from Montrose Ford in Fairlawn — into a 1996 Chrysler LHS driven by Kaskevic on state Route 18 at 5:30 a.m. June 13.
Kaskevic, 34, sustained serious injuries and 29-year-old Nelson, the lone passenger, was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Ralios had a blood-alcohol level of 0.123, police said. The legal limit in Ohio is 0.08.
Police reported Ralios did not have a driver’s license and was staying in Fairlawn with family.
Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or email@example.com.