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He ran over and killed a friend south of Tacoma after an argument. Here is his sentence

A 50-year-old man who deliberately ran over a friend, killed him after an argument on a street south of Tacoma and then fled the scene has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison.

Jose Manuel Colon-Ortega pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree manslaughter in the death of 41-year-old Tanielu Utu on July 24, 2021. According to court documents, Colon-Ortega went to the area around 106th Street and Ainsworth Avenue in Parkland to working on or picking up the camper.

An argument broke out between Utu, Colon-Ortega and the suspect’s then girlfriend. Colon-Ortega drove away in a Honda Accord, then made a quick U-turn and drove toward Utu, hitting him and reportedly sending him flying 10 to 15 feet into the air.

Utu’s girlfriend told Pierce County Sheriff’s Department deputies that the argument was about one of the men owing the other $20, according to charging papers, but prosecutors wrote in a more recent court brief that the argument was about parking.

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Prosecutors originally charged Colon-Ortega with first-degree and second-degree murder. Deputy District Attorney Joe Scovel noted in a petition for the court to change the charge to manslaughter that there were evidentiary issues that would have made a conviction on the original charge questionable. Scovel also wrote that the primary witnesses are transient and have not responded to a subpoena.

Officers from the Pierce County Sheriff's Department scan Ainsworth Ave.  S. on tire tracks to mark as evidence on the roadway on Saturday, July 24, 2021. Detectives are investigating a homicide after a man deliberately ran over another man in Parkland.

Officers from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department scan Ainsworth Ave. S. on tire tracks to mark as evidence on the roadway on Saturday, July 24, 2021. Detectives are investigating a homicide after a man deliberately ran over another man in Parkland.

The sentence imposed by Supreme Court Justice Edmund Murphy, 78 months in prison, was at the low end of the standard sentencing range for defendants tried in similar cases, which is 78 to 102 months.

Colon-Ortega had no previous criminal convictions, according to court records. In his guilty plea, he wrote that he had run over Utu while the man, as he later discovered, was a BB gun replica of a gun pointed at his then-girlfriend’s head while she sat in her car.

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Utu was found dead near the 10400 block of Ainsworth Avenue South with the replica gun allegedly tucked into his waistband. Records show several people called 911 to report that a driver had deliberately struck a pedestrian and sped away. Tire tracks went from the northbound lanes of Ainsworth to the west shoulder near the victim’s body.

Colon-Ortega’s attorney from the Department of Assigned Counsel, Eric Trujillo, wrote in his trial brief that Utu was apparently angry about where his client had parked his car, and Utu made several threats to kill Colon-Ortega and set the Honda on fire to stab.

Two days after the fatal collision, the suspect’s mother reported the Honda theft. Lakewood police found it that day in a swampy area where the car crashed into a tree. Colon-Ortega was arrested four months later in Cowlitz County on unrelated charges related to a home invasion.

Colon-Ortega claimed that the incident was a case of justifiable homicide in defense of others, according to his lawyer. The case went to trial in October last year but was declared a mistrial before the lawyers made their opening statements.

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Adam Faber, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said the defense received a psychological evaluation and the court ruled that the suspect was mentally incompetent to continue with the trial. He said prosecutors were seeking an order restoring jurisdiction. That same day, Judge Grant Blinn ordered that Colon-Ortega receive 90 days of inpatient treatment at Western State Hospital.

That evaluation included a diagnosis from a licensed psychologist who found Colon-Ortega met criteria for an unspecified schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders.

After the period of inpatient treatment, a psychologist from the Ministry of Social and Health Services gave Colon-Ortega a similar diagnosis in April, but found that he was likely capable of understanding the nature of the proceedings against him and assisting in his own defense .

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