Albert Lea man sentenced to at least 120 days in jail for death

Published 10:56 am Tuesday, November 14, 2017

An Albert Lea man charged in the death of a man in October 2016 in Owatonna was sentenced to at least 120 days in jail Monday in Steele County District Court.

Peter Anthony Escobar, 24, was sentenced after he pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide in April.

Peter Escobar

His sentence was staggered into three 120-day terms once a year for the next three years. Escobar can file a motion to have the second and third jail terms waived if he shows that he is sober and compliant with probation. He will also spend 90 days on electronic home monitoring at his expense following each term.

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He was given a nearly five-year prison sentence, which was stayed for five years.

Police said Escobar was drunk Oct. 23, 2016, when he drove his car into a field, starting a fire that killed his passenger.

Herman Hernandez of Albert Lea was found after police, responding to a report of an intoxicated person, spotted a car ablaze in a field near the 2600 block of 52nd Avenue.

After firefighters extinguished the blaze, Hernandez’s badly burned body was found in the front passenger seat. An autopsy found Hernandez apparently died of smoke inhalation and heat injuries.

Officers later found Escobar, who said he had been drinking in Albert Lea and had driven to Owatonna but now did not know where his car was.

Escobar later said he blacked out and didn’t remember what happened to his car or Hernandez.

Investigators from the Steele County Sheriff’s Office and State Fire Marshal’s Office examined the scene and concluded that Escobar was likely driving west on 26th Street and missed the turn onto 43rd Avenue NW, instead driving into the field to the west. Investigators believed Escobar left the vehicle running, and that the heat from the engine and exhaust ignited dry grass under the car, which led to the car catching fire.

Steele County Attorney Dan McIntosh said Escobar’s sentence is intended to encourage long-term sobriety.

Escobar initially also faced charges of second-degree manslaughter and driving while intoxicated in connection with the chase, but those counts were dismissed.

In addition to the jail time, Escobar was ordered to comply with the Ignition Interlock Program, not use alcohol or controlled substances, submit to random testing, pay $1,368 in restitution, complete 100 hours of community work service and follow other court requirements.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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