1st type of conviction in the nation as man sentenced to 15 years to life in deadly boating crash

Justin Ennis receives 15 years - life

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Tuesday morning, Judge John Lua sentenced Ennis to 15 years to life in prison plus one year for the second degree murder in the boating death of Sal Rodriguez. Kern county District Attorney Lisa Green said this conviction is the first of it's kind for the state and possibly the nation.


Two words are all Justin Ennis could say Tuesday morning in court.

"I'm sorry," said Ennis.

A far cry from a sunny summer day in 2010 at Lake Buena Vista.

The Kern county District Attorney's office said that afternoon, Sal Rodriguez and his family were on their boat, celebrating a birthday when they spotted Justin Ennis driving his mother's boat right at them.

"Everyone started jumping, yelling, screaming waving the flag, trying to get (Ennis) to stop and (Ennis) just kept coming," said prosecutor David Wolf.

Rodriguez tried to start the boat and drive away but it was too late.

"(Rodriguez) looked back and the last thing he saw was the bow of (Ennis') boat crushing (Rodriguez's) head between the bow of (Ennis') boat and and (Rodriguez's) windshield," said Wolf.

Wolf said after the crash, Rodriguez's young nieces begged Ennis to tow them back to shore, since no one on the boat knew how to drive it.

"They pleaded with him, finally he said 'OK I will tow you to shore but if you call the cops I will kill you', " said Wolf.

The person Ennis ended up killing was Sal Rodriguez, who left behind a pregnant wife.

"His daughter,  will never get to go to a father-daughter dance with her dad because of Justin Ennis," said Wolf.

Prosecutors said Ennis had marijuana in his system and a blood alcohol level of 0.12.
 
"When he was arrested he was sobbing, saying his mom was going to be upset and that he damaged the boat. He did not ask about the victim's condition," said Wolf.

This was not Ennis' first DUI.

He was previously convicted of DUI in Marin county and was on parole when he killed Rodriguez, making it his third incident regarding drugs and alcohol.

Tuesday morning, Judge John Lua sentenced Ennis to 15 years to life in prison plus one year for the second degree murder in the boating death of Sal Rodriguez.

Kern county District Attorney Lisa Green said this conviction is the first of it's kind for the state and possibly the nation.

"Whether you are driving your car down the road or driving your boat on the lake, if you are driving under the influence of alcohol, that's a crime and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law," said Green.

In court, Ennis could not finish reading his letter to the Rodriguez family.

"I'm sorry," was all Ennis could say.

"He wanted to say he was sorry and that he was glad nobody else was hurt," said Ennis' attorney Michael Lukehart.

The Rodriguez family hopes the public learns from this tragedy.

"If you decide to consume a drink. Decide not to drive," said Rodriguez's sister-in-law Maria Lopez.

Ennis' attorney said they plan to appeal.

This is not the first time Ennis has been charged with second degree murder.

He spent two years in prison after taking a plea deal in the death of Lora Shines in 2008.










 

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