Driver gets 29 years for fatal crash into Somers Point bar

Antonio Vargas

July 31, 2013 3:07:27 PM PDT
An Atlantic County man was sentenced on Wednesday for crashing his car into a bar in January, 2011, killing his passenger.

Antonio Vargas, 24, was sentenced to 29 years in jail for the crash that killed 33-year-old Kevin Botta.

Vargas was convicted in June on numerous counts, including aggravated manslaughter and vehicular homicide.

Investigators said Vargas was driving drunk and speeding on Shore Road in Somers Point, crashed his vehicle into a telephone pole, then hit a fire hydrant before the vehicle came to rest in the entranceway of Gregory's Bar.

Vargas' driver's license was previously suspended 24 times before the crash.

Botta's mother, Caroline, delivered an emotional statement during the hearing, as a photo of Botta was displayed in a picture frame.

"The loss of a son has taken the life out of me. I think of him every day," she said. "It's not easy to know I'll never hear his voice or see his beautiful smile again."

"The past two years have been hard to get through, and the nights are even worse. My mind reels with thoughts of him and it's hard to sleep. I ask God to help."

Vargas then turned to the family for a statement of his own.

"I can't tell you how many days I laid in bed wishing I was the one who didn't make it so this would all be over and everyone would just be happy," Vargas said.

His defense was that Botta was the man behind the wheel, but prosecutors proved that was a lie. Botta's sister, Michelle Foster, took offense to Vargas' demeanor in court. "He showed no remorse whatsoever when photos of my brother were displayed. He was not even disturbed by them and I was horrified by them," she said. A bystander was injured in the crash after being struck by the fire hydrant that went flying during the crash.

Vargas must serve more than 22 years of the sentence before he becomes eligible for parole.

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