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Teen gets 6 years for S. Carolina street race that killed 2

October 1, 2021 GMT

YORK, S.C. (AP) — A teen has been ordered to serve six years in prison for killing two people in a crash that prosecutors said happened during an illegal street race.

Justin Rafael Valdez, 19, pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of reckless homicide in the Feb. 20 wreck in Rock Hill that killed a chiropractor and his wife, The Herald of Rock Hill reported.

Valdez and his lawyers said he was not street racing, but did say he was speeding and weaving in and out of traffic before the head-on wreck on a Saturday evening on state Highway 161 — one of Rock Hill’s busiest roads.

Valdez was driving at 95 mph (153 kph) just seconds before the wreck and witnesses and surveillance video showed he was racing someone who has not been identified, prosecutors said.

“The roads are not a NASCAR course. The end result is going to be fatal, said 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett, who said Valdez had other speeding tickets in just a few years of driving.

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The crash killed Donald and Teresa Hewetson, whose family asked the judge to sentence Valdez to the maximum of 20 years. Judge Brian Gibbons agreed to the maximum 20 years, but suspended the sentence to six years behind bars as long as Valdez completes three years of probation.

A passenger in Valdez’s car also was injured.

Valdez apologized to the family of the husband and wife he killed and his lawyers asked for mercy because he made a thoughtless mistake.

“What we have here is a young man who for two or three minutes out of his life, made a terrible mistake,” defense attorney Montrio Belton said. “This is a caring, Christian young man.”