Ridgecrest man pleads no contest to voluntary manslaughter for punching man who later died

Crime Watch

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Ridgecrest man on Tuesday pleaded no contest to a charge of voluntary manslaughter for punching a man who fell, hit his head and later died.

Richard Castleberry, 32, entered the plea before a Superior Court judge and charges of first-degree murder and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury were dismissed, according to court records. He faces 11 years in prison at his Sept. 14 sentencing hearing.

On May 26 of last year, Castleberry was escorted out of Triple T’s Tavern on Ridgecrest Boulevard shortly before closing time, bar employees told police. 

An employee said she and another employee went outside at about 1:50 a.m. and saw Castleberry urinating outside the building, according to court documents. They told him to leave, and he became confrontational.

Shortly afterward, Castleberry hit Luis Fernando Vargas Quintero, who was standing near a bar employee’s car, the employee told police. She said no words were exchanged between Castleberry and Quintero, and that Quintero was “just standing there.”

Quintero, 29, fell and hit the back of his head on the car. He was taken to Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead within the hour.

Castleberry ran after hitting Quintero and was chased by witnesses until police arrived and arrested him, prosecutors said. There was no evidence suggesting he and Quintero knew each other or had been involved in a prior altercation.

“This case is a tragic reminder that aggressive and violent behavior too often results in fatal consequences,” District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said in a news release. “So-called ‘one-punch homicide’ cases inflict the same loss of life as other homicide crimes, but in some instances without an evident intent to kill.”

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