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Truck driver sentenced to 13 months in Madras fatal hit-and-run crash

Likely facing deportation proceedings after prison term

MADRAS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A truck driver from Mexico who authorities said struck and killed a pedestrian on U.S. Highway 97 in Madras in January and failed to stop entered a conditional guilty plea Wednesday and was sentenced to 13 months in prison.

Jose Manuel Bernal-Mendoza, 47, was arrested in Southern California nearly a week after the crash on second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and other charges.

A Madras police officer's court filing said Bernal-Mendoza told his supervisor he swerved to avoid "a dark, shadowy figure" but didn't believe he'd hit anything.

Police had been searching for a Volvo semi-trailer with likely damage, based on evidence found at the scene, in the crash that killed pedestrian Anthony Shadley, 59, of Madras, who authorities said likely was on his way to a nearby warming shelter.

Jefferson County District Attorney Steve Leriche said Bernal-Mendoza likely will face deportation after his prison term, as well as three years post-prison supervision, a five-year suspension of his Oregon drivers license and restitution he must pay to Shadley's family.

Here's Leriche's account of the court proceeding and what led to the Alford plea (in which a defendant does not admit guilt, only that the evidence probably would lead to a conviction):

On Wednesday, July, 1, Jose Bernal-Mendoza, of Mexico, entered a plea of guilty by way of Alford to one count of felony Failure to Perform the Duties of a Driver to Injured Persons in connection with the January 21, 2020 hit and run death of Anthony Shadley, 59, of Madras and Warm Springs. 

Investigation at the scene revealed that Shadley was attempting to cross Hwy 97 at the NW Cypress Lane intersection, likely on his way to the warming shelter hosted by Cornerstone Baptist Church, when he was struck by a southbound 2018 Volvo VNL series semi tractor-trailer operated by Bernal-Mendoza. 

Investigators identified Bernal-Mendoza’s vehicle through parts left on the roadway and through canvassing local businesses for video surveillance. 

Once the model of the vehicle was identified on surveillance, Officer Josh Roth worked with the Oregon Department of Transportation to locate any 2018 Volvo semis that matched the video surveillance.  ODOT was able to confirm that only two Volvo semis had passed the weigh station at Juniper Butte and only one had a box trailer.

That information allowed ODOT to identify the vehicle’s license plate number, which led to the identity of the owner, 5D Cargo Express Incorporated out of Laredo, Texas. 

Officer Roth and Detective Brent Schulke were then able to contact the parent company of 5D Cargo Express, SBC Transportation Inc., and spoke with a safety supervisor, Fernando Lopez, who said the truck was being operated by a team of drivers, one of which was Bernal-Mendoza.

Lopez told Det. Schulke that he’d talked to Bernal-Mendoza after the incident and Bernal-Mendoza said that he’d swerved to avoid a dark shadowy figure and “scraped” it.  Bernal-Mendoza claimed that he checked to see what he hit but did not see anything. 

Lopez advised Bernal-Mendoza to report the incident to law enforcement, but Bernal-Mendoza never did, claiming that he had not had cell service. 

Investigators noted that Mr. Shadley’s body was still at the side of the road in the fog line area and was easily spotted by motorists who called in the report to law enforcement. 

A forensic examination of the truck, including its onboard monitoring systems, indicated that Bernal-Mendoza was obeying the speed limit when the crash occurred, and there was no evidence that Bernal-Mendoza was under the influence of intoxicants when at the time of crash.  

Chief Deputy District Attorney Brentley Foster commented that the case was tragic for all involved.  Shadley left behind a loving family, and other than Bernal-Mendoza’s flight from the scene, there did not appear to be anything criminal about the crash.

Foster noted that Bernal-Mendoza appeared to be working legally in the United States, did not appear to have any other criminal history, and as there did not appear to be a criminal reason for the crash, had Bernal-Mendoza simply remained at the scene, it is unlikely he would have faced criminal charges. 

Now, Bernal-Mendoza has been sentenced to 13 months prison and will likely face deportation proceedings after his incarceration. Bernal-Mendoza will also receive 3 years of post-prison supervision, a 5 year Oregon driver’s license suspension, and will be required to pay restitution for any out-of-pocket expenses Shadley’s family incurred as a result of his death. 

Deputy District Attorney Sarah Lunsford represented the State at Bernal-Mendoza’s sentencing hearing.  Bernal-Mendoza was represented by Bend attorney Lee Griffeth.

District Attorney Steve Leriche stated that if this case had gone to trial, the sentence for Bernal-Mendoza under Oregon’s Criminal Sentencing Guidelines would likely have been 16-18 months incarceration.  In this plea agreement, the State only reduced the potential sentence by 3-5 months and resolved the case much sooner, while still achieving accountability. 

Leriche emphasized that law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office devoted substantial resources to the investigation and prosecution of the case, including considerable resources expended by other departments to assist with the investigation and even sending an investigator to California to interview Bernal-Mendoza.

Bernal-Mendoza was apprehended with the assistance of the Azusa Police Department when he attempted to make a scheduled delivery in Azusa, California approximately 18 hours after the crash.  Bernal-Mendoza waived extradition and was returned to Madras while the case was pending. 

The Central Oregon Major Incident Team, especially a crash reconstruction team provided by Bend Police Department, provided significant investigative support in this case. 

The District Attorney’s Office would like to thank the Azusa Police Department, the Central Oregon Major Incident Team, and the Bend Police Department for their assistance and would like to particularly commend the efforts of Officer Josh Roth of the Madras Police Department for relentless work to identify the vehicle that killed Mr. Shadley.

Article Topic Follows: Madras

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