Driver Sentenced: Bullhead City cyclist killed in hit-and-run

Larissa Jean Castilleja
Larissa Jean Castilleja

Larissa Jean Castilleja, 43, a Bullhead City High teacher was killed Sept 9, 2009 when a driver hit her and fled the scene.

This fatality bears many similarities to several of four recent fatalities in the Phoenix-metro area this past summer.

  1. the automobile driver hit-and-ran (all 5 incidents)
  2. DUI on the part of the automobile driver is suspected (at least 4 of the 5 incidents)
  3. time of day was overnight/early morning (ranging from 10pm to 4am)
  4. no improper actions on the part of the cyclist are suspected (all 5 incidents)

The suspect was later charged with manslaughter and leaving the scene, on Sept 28 he plead not guilty; and according to the Mojave Daily News, has secured himself  all-star Scottsdale DUI lawyer Scott Maasen. In granting the reduced bond, the judge expressed reservations and then … did it anyway! It was also revealed in that story that the defendant has an outstanding warrant for DUI in Nevada, which he says he is not aware of.

The Plea

The defendant plead guilty to manslaughter, leaving the scene, and DUI. Sentencing is scheduled for May 21, 2010. Case number S-8015-CR-200900986, online lookup.

Sentencing

The [mohavedailynews] had a pretty good rundown of the sentencing:

Judge Steven Conn sentenced Gagliardi to prison for 13 years for both felony crimes (8 for the manslaughter, 5 for hit-and-run), saying the two charges were separate crimes and deserved consecutive sentences. He only found a lack of criminal record as a mitigating factor and that Gagliardi also had about 20 moving violations, mostly for speeding. He found aggravating factors that Gagliardi’s blood alcohol rate was more than twice the legal limit and the emotional harm to Castilleja’s family. The judge also said he hoped the sentences would be a deterrent to people who visit the casinos and drink then get into their cars to drive home.

see also [kingmandailyminer].

Full text  of Bullhead City Police Department Press Release (.pdf here , includes a picture of the suspect) is below. It is well written and contains a lot of salient information, e.g. it specifically mentions the time of the collision, and the fact that the bicycle was equipped with lights. My only criticism is the use of the term ‘accident‘ — which should, of course, of been ‘collision’, or ‘crash’

Fatal Vehicle vs. Bicycle Accident
The Bullhead City Police Department arrested 53-year-old Gino Salvatore Gagliardi of Fort Mojave, Arizona for leaving the scene of a fatal accident after hitting a cyclist with his vehicle. Manslaughter charges are pending.
At 4:12 a.m. on Wednesday, September 9th, 43-year-old Larissa Jean Castilleja of Bullhead City was riding her bicycle southbound on the Bullhead Parkway, near North Oatman Road, when she was struck by a 1983 green GMC van driven by Gagliardi. Castilleja was pronounced dead at the scene.
Gagliardi’s vehicle, which had front-end damage and a flat tire, was found abandoned on Adobe and Mountain Pass Road. Witnesses say he left the area on foot. A few hours later, police located Gagliardi at his Fort Mojave residence. After further
investigation, police believe that alcohol may have been a contributing factor in this accident. A blood sample was taken from Gagliardi and per the Mohave County Attorney, manslaughter charges are pending the laboratory analysis of the blood. He was booked into the Mohave County Jail in Kingman.
Castilleja was wearing a helmet and her bicycle was equipped with safety lights.

2009 AZ Cyclist Fatality Grid

News reports: KPHO azcentral Mojave Daily News

Gagliardi received an eight-year sentence for a manslaughter charge and an additional five years for attempting to leave the scene of an accident.

7 thoughts on “Driver Sentenced: Bullhead City cyclist killed in hit-and-run”

  1. I was a student of Ms. Catilleja’s and have been since freshman year. She was the most loving caring person and i miss not seeing her everyday!

  2. I feel terrible about hearing this story. How and where can I find update news and info about this case? Trial date and outcome?

  3. I am an acquaintence of Mr. Gagliardi and have seen him play as a musician many times in the Laughlin/Bullhead City area. He is an accomplished keyboard player.

    However, this is a tragic accident and one that can’t ever be rectified. The Castilleja family has suffered a tremendous loss of a family member and an outstanding teacher.

    Likewise, Mr. Gagliardi will no doubt suffer for the rest of his life for what has been done and his career is probably over.

    How tragic all of this is.

  4. I was an attorney in Bullhead City from 2000 to 2003 and was in Judge Conn’s Court many times. He is a judge who tends to be fair to the defense attorney and let the defense attorney make their arguments. Upon conviction or plea acceptance, he then seems to have a great compassion for the victims and family.

    This is a good Constitutional viewpoint, innocent until proven guilty.

    13 years may seem like a small number compared to the loss, however, in averaging the sentences given to such people, it is on the mid to high side. The consecutive rather than concurrent sentences are an indication of how the Court viewed the relationship between the letter of the law and the loss of life. There are a lot of judges would make them concurrent rather than consecutive.

    I am sorry for the loss and glad to hear that the wrong-doer was removed from society.

  5. I use to work with Gino at a local casino. As a matter of fact I was a cook at the time and would always feed the guy nightly. Never did I think that happened the late night I saw him trashed and could barly keep his balance.

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