Five years or less for a human life.
Jose Hernandez Solano was riding his bike home from his job as a dishwasher at Brasa Rotisserie in St. Paul during the early morning of Nov. 26, 2017, when he was struck and killed by a Hyundai Santa Fe driven by Dustin Hegner Royce of South St. Paul. Hegner Royce sped away to a nearby bar where his mother worked. The SUV belonged to his mother.
Son and mom stayed mum until St. Paul cops tracked them down weeks later. Criminal charges were filed in March. On Monday, Hegner Royce entered a guilty plea to one count of criminal vehicular homicide. According to published reports, he may face no more than five years in the slammer. If he does get the max here, subtract at least one-third of the sentence for good behavior.
Now, here’s my main pickle with this. Hegner Royce said he had no idea what happened to the vehicle that he drove that night. His mom incredibly told authorities after the pair was found out that she had no involvement in the alleged cover-up and “told officers she sold her Hyundai Santa Fe four days before the crash to an ‘unknown Mexican or Somali male,’ ” court documents say.
The hit-and-run SUV, according to Hegner Royce’s defense attorney, simply “disappeared.”
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Say what? Like at the bottom of a lake or river? Chopped up? Unknown Somali or Mexican male? Sorry. If I was Ramsey County Attorney John Choi or the case prosecutor, I would not enter into any plea agreement until I learn the truth about the whereabouts and fate of this vehicle that took Solano’s life. If I were the trial judge, I would not sanction this plea.
The mother awaits trial on two counts of aiding and abetting. I don’t know what the appropriate punishment and atonement for this crime would be. I do know that Solano deserves much better justice than this here on Earth.