Man’s latest appeal denied in 2009 crash that killed toddler in wagon

A state appellate court has rejected the latest appeal from a man convicted of second-degree murder and other charges for driving drunk and hitting a 13-month-old girl who was being pulled by her father in a wagon in a crosswalk in Long Beach more than a decade ago.

Neely Le’jon Dinkins—who is serving a prison term of 36 years and eight months to life in state prison—was convicted of second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI causing injury, driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or more with injury and leaving the scene of an accident for the crash that killed Kaylee Alvarez and seriously injured her 2-year-old brother.

In a 2-1 ruling released Monday, the panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found that Dinkins is ineligible for re-sentencing under a new state law because he was the “sole perpetrator of the murder and the actual killer.”

Associate Justice Luis A. Lavin dissented, noting that the issue of whether the trial court may summarily deny the petition without appointing an attorney for Dinkins is not settled and that review by the California Supreme Court is pending on that issue in another defendant’s case.

Dinkins was driving a Dodge Durango that struck the red plastic Radio Flyer wagon being pulled by the children’s father in a marked crosswalk as they walked on a green light at Redondo Avenue and 10th Street on Sept. 11, 2009.

The wagon ended up wedged under the vehicle, which came to a stop about halfway down the block after the victims’ mother and other bystanders screamed for Dinkins to stop and a nearby resident stepped in front of the vehicle.

That resident grabbed the little girl’s brother, but Dinkins drove off with her lodged under the SUV.

Dinkins drove 1.3 miles to his girlfriend’s house, where the girl was found under the right front wheel well of the Durango, according to a December 2012 appellate court ruling upholding his conviction.

Dinkins, whose driver’s license had been suspended in May 2008, was arrested nearby. His blood-alcohol content was 2 1/2 times the legal limit more than an hour after the crash.

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