WARSAW — A Winona Lake man was sentenced to five years in prison, though he will likely serve only a fraction of that time behind bars.
Daniel Hugo Duenas, 21, 2326 E. Pierceton Road, was sentenced in Kosciusko Circuit Court Thursday, Feb. 13, almost three years after striking a man with a vehicle following a drug deal that went bad.
Duenas pleaded guilty to aggravated battery, a level 3 felony; and reckless homicide, a level 5 felony.
On Feb. 17, 2017, Warsaw Police were called to the 700 block of North Cook Street to a car-pedestrian accident. Officers found a black 2010 Ford Mustang off the west side of the road. A 29-year-old man, later identified as Derek Davidson, South Bend, was found underneath the vehicle. Davidson was taken to Kosciusko Community Hospital, where he died from his injuries.
According to court documents, minutes after the crash an Indiana State Police officer found Duenas, the driver of the Mustang, several blocks away and took him into custody without incident.
The investigation showed that a marijuana purchase was set up by several people, but during the exchange, Duenas was battered and robbed. Duenas then got into his car, backed up and then sped forward into Davidson, pinning him under the vehicle. Duenas then backed up and drove forward several times before jumping out of the vehicle and fleeing the scene on foot.
Judge Michael Reed said he received a letter from Michiana Community Corrections tentatively agreeing to accept Duenas into their program.
County Prosecutor Daniel Hampton told the court that Davidson’s mother wrote a compelling victim impact statement letter.
“Nothing the court can do in a sentencing today can bring Derek back,” Hampton said. “But we can send a message to the community that this type of conduct will not be condoned.”
Several members of Davidson’s family spoke tearfully at the sentencing, addressing Duenas directly.
Davidson’s girlfriend, who was pregnant at the time of his death, said her child looks at a picture of Davidson each day and asks when her dad is coming home.
Duenas’ attorney, Doug Lemon, described the events of that night as “an unspeakable tragedy.” Lemon said there are widely varying reports of exactly what took place that night.
“I think he’s sorry,” Lemon said. “And that’s not enough, but that’s all he has.”
Lemon said Duenas has accepted responsibility and pointed out that Duenas has remained behind bars since being arrested. At one point, Lemon said, Duenas’ family may have been able to come up with bail money, but Duenas requested that he be left in jail.
“I am so sorry,” Duenas said. “When I got in my car, the last thing I meant to do was hurt someone, much less kill someone. I only wanted to get away and get away fast.”
“This has been on my heart every day since,” Duenas said. “From this day on, I will be the kind of person who does the right thing.”
Duenas said he understands that Davidson’s family does not owe him forgiveness but hopes that one day they may find it in their hearts to forgive him.
“You took a life,” Reed said to Duenas. “It’s irreplaceable. And nothing I do here today can change that.”
Reed sentenced Duenas to 11 years in prison for the aggravated battery charge and three years in prison for the reckless homicide charge, ordering the sentences to be served concurrently, meaning at the same time.
His entire sentence spans 11 years.
Reed ordered Duenas to serve five years of the sentence in prison and three years additional years in Community Corrections. Another three years of the sentence were ordered suspended and to be served through formal probation.
He has already served 1,090 days in jail.