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Defendant Pleads Guilty in Crash That Killed La Cresta Man

On April 9, Richard Michael Proger, 41, of Menifee changed his plea to guilty in the 2011 DUI crash on Clinton Keith Road that took the life of Richard "Dick" Johnson of La Cresta.

A Menifee man has pleaded guilty to DUI gross vehicular manslaughter in the 2011 death of a La Cresta man.

Richard "Dick" Johnson, 84, a well-liked rancher, died the evening of July 6, 2011 on Clinton Keith Road near Chantory Street. Richard Michael Proger, 41, was driving a Toyota pickup truck north on Clinton Keith when he crossed into Johnson’s lane, hitting the elderly man head-on, authorities said.

Johnson was driving his Lincoln Town Car home to La Cresta when he was killed on impact just inside Murrieta city limits.

A guilty plea was entered by Proger on April 9, a date that had been reserved for his trial readiness conference after the start date for his trial was delayed several times.

"He pled guilty on April 9 to one count of gross vehicular manslaughter while DUI," said John Hall, spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney's Office. "The indicated sentence he will receive is four years. He is out of custody and should he fail to be at his sentencing, he will instead receive a 10-year sentence."

Proger, who suffered injuries in the crash, has been out on $75,000 bail since his August 2011 arrest in the case. He was ordered to wear an alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelet as a condition of bail.

The defendant told the investigating officer that he had swerved to avoid hitting a rabbit in the road, according to a statement filed by Murrieta police in support of an arrest warrant.

When told that physical evidence did not support that account, Proger admitted there hadn't been a rabbit.

Proger had a .19 blood alcohol content—more than double the .08 at which a person is considered impaired—and oxycodone in his system when he was tested at the hospital the night of the deadly crash, authorities said.

Proger is scheduled to report for sentencing June 10.

John Simonson April 22, 2013 at 05:42 PM
Four years is not enough time for taking another's life.
LBV Collins April 23, 2013 at 01:14 AM
Especially considering the person who Dick Johnson was. While I never knew him personally, from what I've read, he sounds like a jewel of a guy. We need more like him in our community... which make this incident that much more tragic.

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