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Repeat California Drunken Driver Who Fatally Struck 6-Year-Old Girl Playing on Sidewalk Is Sentenced for Murder


A jail booking photo shows Maximino Delgado Lagunas.  (Fullerton Police Department.)

A repeat drunken driver who fatally struck a 6-year-old California girl in 2018 has been sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for murder.

Maximino Delgado Lagunas, 56, of Anaheim, had been working as a painter at a construction site in a residential area in the city of Fullerton when he left in his 1990 Toyota 4Runner and struck Grace Aguilar as she played on a nearby sidewalk on Feb. 17, 2018. A toxicology test placed his blood-alcohol level at .22, nearly three times the legal driving limit of .08.

Lagunas had already been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in 2015, which carries a mandatory warning that should the convict drive drunk again and kill someone, he could be charged with murder.

It’s called a Watson advisement, and it’s named after drunken driver Robert Lee Watson. Watson’s 1981 California Supreme Court case established that he could be charged with second-degree murder for a crash that killed driver Penny Maillet and her six-year-old daughter, Michelle Maillet, in Redding, California, in 1979.

In Lagunas’ case, police say he lost control of his car about a block from his job site and drove onto the opposite sidewalk where Grace was playing, then drove back onto the street and struck a parked car. He remained on scene and cooperated with investigators, police said, and has been in jail since his arrest.

Lagunas took his case to trial in June, and a jury convicted him of second-degree murder. Orange County Superior Court Judge Michael A. Leversen sentenced him Friday in Santa Ana.

“Little kids playing on a sidewalk shouldn’t have to worry about being hit and killed by drunk drivers,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a press release.

“Every time someone drives under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they take the risk that they could kill someone,” Spitzer continued. “This time it was a six-year-old girl named Grace who was just playing on the sidewalk.”

Senior Deputy District Attorney Jeff Moore prosecuted Lagunas. Lagunas was represented by the office of the Orange County Public Defender.

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A graduate of the University of Oregon, Meghann worked at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, and the Idaho Statesman in Boise, Idaho, before moving to California in 2013 to work at the Orange County Register. She spent four years as a litigation reporter for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and one year as a California-based editor and reporter for and associated publications such as The National Law Journal and New York Law Journal before joining Law & Crime News. Meghann has written for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Bloomberg Law, ABA Journal, The Forward, Los Angeles Business Journal and the Laguna Beach Independent. Her Twitter coverage of federal court hearings in a lawsuit over homelessness in Los Angeles placed 1st in the Los Angeles Press Club's Southern California Journalism Awards for Best Use of Social Media by an Independent Journalist in 2021. An article she freelanced for Los Angeles Times Community News about a debate among federal judges regarding the safety of jury trials during COVID also placed 1st in the Orange County Press Club Awards for Best Pandemic News Story in 2021.