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Driver Not Guilty Of Criminal Negligence In Route 28 Detached Tire Death Case

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The driver of a truck whose wheel came off and killed another motorist was found not guilty of the most serious charge Friday morning.

Eric Gonzales-Huerta, 22, was found not guilty of criminal negligence in connection with the Route 28 accident on Nov. 21, 2014. He will be released from jail and will have to pay $1,800 in fines.

Judge Beth Lazarra ruled that the prosecution failed to prove that Huerta was negligent, saying he was not aware of the condition of the wheel when it came off.

However, he was found guilty of a variety of summary offenses.

Huerta, who is described as an illegal alien from Mexico, was driving a pickup truck with a suspended license and no insurance.

The pickup truck was hauling a trailer when a wheel came off, bounced over the median and smashed into the windshield of an oncoming car. Robert Lofink, 75, was killed instantly in the accident. However, his wife was not harmed.

Huerta was arrested when he came back to the scene looking for the wheel. He was unaware that it had caused a fatal accident.

Robyn Kitt was driving behind Lofink's vehicle that day. She saw the accident and called 911.

"I just asked if everybody was okay and I heard the wife say she was, but he wasn't. She was sitting in the back seat," said Kitt. "I was like, somebody should be held responsible, somebody died. It's not like something less that, something very serious."

The non-jury trial began on Tuesday. Huerta's attorney presented testimony from an expert mechanic who blamed the accident on improperly installed bearings in the wheel.

His attorney said the trailer was brought in for repairs, but the incorrect installation was never fixed.

However, the prosecution said Huerta never should have been on the road because the truck and trailer were in poor condition with bald tires and he had no insurance or license. A witness testified about the wheel wobbling before it came off the trailer.

The mechanic had warned Huerta he could go to jail. But the judge said those conditions did not cause the accident and not every death is a crime or a result of criminal activity.

Huerta was found guilty of 22 lesser charges. As for his immigrant status, Huerta's attorney said he is married to a United States citizen and has been in this country since he was 12, listed as an undocumented immigrant.

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