SANTA FE, N.M. — Repeat DWI offender James Ruiz has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for the killing of two teenage sisters in a drunken driving crash on Santa Fe’s Cerrillos Road from last year.
Ruiz, 36, of Albuquerque, received his sentence this afternoon during a hearing in front of state District Judge Michael Vigil.
The sentencing comes on the heels of Ruiz’s guilty plea in September on vehicular homicide charges for the deaths of Del Lynn Peshalkai, 19, and Deshauna Peshlakai, 17, both of Naschitti.
The sisters were killed March 6, 2010 when Ruiz barrelled a truck into the rear end of a Chevy Sedan that was carrying the young women and their parents, who were injured in the wreck.
The family was in Santa Fe for a basketball tournament.
Ruiz was very drunk that night. A blood draw taken from him after his arrest registered his blood alcohol content at 0.22 percent, nearly three times the presumed level of intoxication for a driver in New Mexico.
Ruiz had been drinking with two friends at the Blue Corn Cafe and Brewery in south Santa Fe when he got behind the wheel of a truck that belonged to one of the drinking buddies he was with that night. The group ordered several drinks and left without paying their tab.
The wreck happened just moments after the group left the Blue Corn.
Last month, Ruiz pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of great bodily harm or injury of a human being by vehicle for the injuries suffered by the sisters’ parents, David Peshlakai and Darlene Thomas.
The charges carried 16 years in prison. But its Ruiz’s history of driving drunk that accounts for the other 24 years he must spend behind bars as a repeat offender. During his plea hearing, Ruiz admitted to having three past DWI convictions, going back to 1995. Each prior conviction adds up to four years behind bars for each vehicular homicide and great bodily injury count.
Under the plea, Ruiz must serve at least half of the 40 year sentence before he receives any “good time” credits that can go toward an early release.
And there is also the potential of another 26 years hanging over Ruiz’s head if he violates the terms of his five-year probation once he is released from prison — 24 of those years stems from prior convictions.