A San Jose man accused of running over and killing a female neighbor who was about to call police to report that he had crashed into a fence in 2009 has been convicted of second-degree murder, a prosecutor said. A Santa Clara County Superior Court jury on Monday found Richard Delgado III, 24, guilty of driving his grandfather’s borrowed Honda into Donna Fife, 46, mortally wounding her, Deputy District Attorney James Leonard said. Delgado faces up to 15 years in prison at an April 19 sentencing hearing before Judge Michele McKay-McCoy, Leonard said.
On the night of Jan. 19, 2009, Delgado crashed his Lincoln Mark VIII car into a neighbor’s fence on Thainwood Way. Other neighbors came out to see what happened, including Fife, who lived several houses down from where Delgado lived, Leonard said. A short time later, at about 11:20 p.m., Delgado emerged from his residence, got into his grandfather’s Honda and then some neighbors tried to get the Honda’s license number, Leonard said.
One of them was Fife, who was holding a cellphone and standing on the lawn in front of a home near Delgado’s when Delgado turned on the Honda’s engine, Leonard said. “He backed up just enough to drive across his neighbor’s driveway to his neighbor’s lawn where she was standing,” Leonard said. “She was running across the yard,” Leonard said. “Instead of making a hard left onto the street he took a hard right to where she was and just ran over her.” Both the front and rear driver’s side wheels ran over Fife. Delgado ran from the scene but was soon arrested and a test showed his blood-alcohol level was 0.13 — well over the legal limit — four hours after Fife was hit, Leonard said.
Donna Fife was a longtime employee of NASA’s Aviation Safety and Reporting System and a gardener whose apricot preserves once won a blue ribbon at the Santa Clara County Fair, Leonard said.
A jury last year deadlocked 10-2 for a second-degree murder guilty verdict over the issue of whether a streetlight provided enough illumination for Delgado to see Fife, Leonard said.
Prosecutors had to retry Delgado with added evidence showing the jury that from the streetlight, “he would have had to have had his eyes closed” not to see Fife before he hit her, Leonard said.
Delgado was convicted last year of assault by means of force and false imprisonment in an unrelated case from 2008 and he is awaiting trial on charges of attacking inmates at the Santa Clara County Jail, according to the district attorney’s office.