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Francis Hernandez, "Ice Cream Killer," Convicted Of Vehicular Homicide In 3 Deaths

02/23/10 02:25 PM ET   AP

Francis Hernandez

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — An illegal immigrant was convicted Tuesday in a crash that killed three people, including a 3-year-old boy inside an ice cream shop.

Jurors found Francis Hernandez, 25, of Guatemala guilty of vehicular homicide and other charges.

Prosecutors said Hernandez was driving an SUV at twice the speed limit when it crashed into a pickup truck, which in turn crashed into an ice cream store in the east Denver suburb of Aurora in September 2008.

The case sparked calls for immigration reform after Hernandez avoided deportation despite a dozen prior arrests in Colorado. Authorities said he used 12 aliases and two dates of birth to slip under the radar of immigration officials.

Killed in the crash were Marten Kudlis, who was inside the shop with his mother; Patricia Guntharp, 49, who was driving the truck; and her passenger Debra Serecky, 52.

Prosecutors said Hernandez ran a red light and was going more than 80 mph in a 40-mph zone when Guntharp turned left in front of him.

Defense lawyers argued that Hernandez's cousin was driving the SUV and that police ignored a witness report that there were two people in the vehicle. The cousin was later killed in a shooting.

The defense also said Guntharp shared the blame for the crash because an autopsy report showed she had methamphetamine in her system.

Prosecutors said Hernandez's DNA was on the driver-side air bag, and there was no evidence Guntharp was driving badly.

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Filed by Ethan Axelrod  |