BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Upon making bail in connection with a deadly hit-and-run crash, Eric Miles Jr. flouted the terms of his release and got behind the wheel. He picked up a DUI charge, an offense with which he’s very familiar — he has eight prior convictions.
On Tuesday, Miles, 32, was sentenced to five years and four months in prison after accepting plea agreements in both cases.
Before sentencing, however, he heard from the family of 24-year-old Christopher Lee Reyes, who died after Miles’ SUV collided with a Jeep in southwest Bakersfield.
Reyes’ mother, Tonya Brown, 56, wept as she told the court of her horror upon hearing of her son’s death. She ran into traffic screaming her son’s name.
Reyes was “so intelligent, so polite and so strong,” a natural athlete who attended South High, Brown said. He was the smallest person on the football field, but he challenged the biggest players. He didn’t fear anyone, Brown said.
She told the court she misses Reyes’ smile and his love for her cooking. At holidays, Reyes would ask her, “Mama, can I taste the turkey? Mama, can I taste the pie?” Brown said.
“Now, at the holidays and his birthday, there will be an empty seat where my baby would have sat,” she said.
Latoya Robertson, an older sister of Reyes, said she’s angered and saddened her brother died as a result of Miles’ reckless behavior. Robertson, 40, said she was raised in the church and knows she’s not supposed to hate, but she can’t bring herself to feel any sympathy for the defendant.
“When we walked in the court, he smirked at us,” Robertson said. “It’s not funny. This is not justice to us. He gets to get out and live his life with his family, and we have to go look at a tombstone because he decided to be reckless.”
Miles faced away from Reyes’ mother and sister as they spoke.
The crash happened the night of May 3 at the intersection of Ming Avenue and Pinon Springs Circle West. Reyes was pronounced dead at the scene and a passenger, his pregnant girlfriend, was hospitalized with serious injuries. The family said she lost the baby.
The SUV was traveling 76 mph on Ming Avenue just before hitting the Jeep, driven by Reyes, which had been turning south from Ming Avenue onto Pinon Springs Circle West, according to testimony at Miles’ preliminary hearing. The posted speed limit is 45 mph.
Witnesses reported the driver of the SUV left the scene on foot. An officer ran a records check on the vehicle and found it was registered to Miles’ girlfriend. Police questioned her and examined surveillance footage that showed Miles leaving their home in the SUV minutes before the crash, the officer testified.
Miles later called police and admitted driving the SUV.
At a November preliminary hearing, a judge found insufficient evidence to support a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter, noting it appeared Reyes was distracted when he pulled in front of the oncoming SUV. But the judge found the evidence supported charges of reckless driving, hit-and-run causing death or permanent serious injury and driving on a license suspended or revoked for DUI.
While Miles’ begins his prison term, the Reyes family will continue to grapple with the loss of their loved one.
Jamita Carter, 35, another sister of Reyes, said she hasn’t had a day of peace since his death. She told the court she tries to stay strong for her mother. The tragedy that befell her family doesn’t make sense.
“I try not to question God, but I really don’t understand this one,” she said.