On October 9, 2006, Amy Kortlang, 22, of Ramona, CA was killed by Rafael Ramirez Perez, a drunk driving, illegal alien with four prior DUI convictions and who had been previously deported.
The crash happened on Hwy. 67 in Ramona, CA, the California Highway Patrol said. Perez was driving a truck northbound at high speed, passing slower vehicles by crossing into southbound lanes, and driving recklessly, according to witnesses. The truck clipped two sport utility vehicles, causing them to crash into each other and then slammed head-on into the southbound car driven by Kortlang.
Officers said Kortlang died at the scene and three other people were injured. One was flown by helicopter and two others were transported by ambulance to area hospitals.
Perez abandoned his vehicle and fled on foot. Investigators tracked down Perez through the registered owner of the truck, MK Concrete company in Ramona. They identified the drive and Sheriff's detectives arrested Perez hours after the accident.
Authorities had to close Hwy 67 for almost five hours to investigate the crash and clear the debris that was scattered over 500 feet.
NBC 7/39 reported Perez was arrested for DUI in April 2003 and again in July 2003. Perez entered not guilty pleas and was sentenced to 12 days and probation for each of those convictions. In February 2005, Perez entered a guilty plea to a third DUI charge. In that case, he was sentenced to a year in prison. At the time of the crash, Perez was driving without a valid driver's license while on probation for another DUI conviction.
Lauren Mack, spokeswoman for I.C.E, said Perez was handed over to immigration officials earlier this year, after serving time for the drunken driving conviction, and was deported to Mexico in March, 2006.
"Obviously, he came back," Mack said.
On December 13, 2006 Perez pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, DUI with an allegation of great bodily injury and was sentenced to 21 years to life.
Amy Kortlang had just celebrated her 22nd birthday just prior to the accident. A licensed cosmetologist, she had just moved into her own apartment. "She was a beautiful, beautiful, good girl," said her mother, Melanie Kortlang, "who was just beginning life."
The death of her daughter in a traffic crash that littered a Ramona highway with wreckage has given Melanie Kortlang a new mission.
The 43-year-old La Mesa woman said last week that she now wants justice for her child, 22-year-old Amy Kortlang of Ramona. She also wants to know how the illegal immigrant arrested for murder after the collision could be here despite previous charges and deportation, Kortlang said.
MK Concrete agreed to pay almost $450,000 to resolve a lawsuit over the crash that killed Amy Kortlang.
Documents filed with the court stated that the Kortlangs offered in writing on March 8 to resolve the lawsuit for a total amount of $449,999. The offer included the conditions that the defendants named in the lawsuit prove that the only liability insurance coverage available is a $500,000 automobile insurance policy.
The offer also stated that if Kackstetter accepted the terms, all of the defendants in the lawsuit would be released from all of the legal claims the Kortlangs raised in the case.
Perez said he thinks his former employer, Mark Kackstetter, the owner of MK Concrete, should also be held responsible because his former boss never checked his background. "He never asked me if I had a license," Perez said. "I know I was driving the truck, and my history and everything, maybe if he would have taken the extra time he would have saved two lives from going down the hill."
Also see the Amy Kortlang Story