Repeat DUI Offender Convicted of Murder for Striking Toddler with SUV in City Heights

Annaleeh Rodarte
Annaleeh Rodarte. Photo credit: GoFundMe

A man who drove drunk and fatally struck a toddler in City Heights with an SUV was convicted Wednesday of murder.

Margarito Angeles Vargas, 47, was found guilty by a San Diego jury of striking 19-month-old Annaleeh Rodarte with a Toyota 4Runner at about 6:45 p.m. on Sept. 24, 2022.

The girl was crossing Redwood Street about midway down the block with her siblings when she was struck. Annaleeh was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead just after 1 a.m. the following morning.

While jurors also convicted Angeles Vargas of other counts such as gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and hit-and-run, the trial revolved around whether he should be found guilty of murder, as defense attorney Marie Maloney conceded her client was guilty of the other charges.

Maloney argued at trial that Angeles Vargas was unable to see the girl in the roadway, citing factors such as the girl’s short stature and her client’s vantage point while behind the wheel. She also said the pothole-riddled roadway on Redwood Street made for bumpy travel that hampered visibility for drivers.

The defense attorney described the collision as “unavoidable” and said the girl entered the street when she was “tragically not visible anymore” from Angeles Vargas’ position.

After striking the girl, Angeles Vargas purchased food from a nearby street vendor and later struck another vehicle stopped at a red light, according to testimony. He was arrested later that day at his home in the Bay Terraces neighborhood.

Due to a 2016 DUI conviction, prosecutors were able to charge him with murder.

Deputy District Attorney Hailey Williams alleged that Angeles Vargas had a blood alcohol level of .206% in the current case, and had a .21% blood alcohol level in the 2016 case, both of which are more than two times the legal driving limit in California.

The prosecutor said Angeles Vargas ran a stop sign just before turning onto Redwood Street and nearly struck a parked truck as he made the turn.

When Annaleeh crossed the road, she was 120 feet from the intersection, giving Angeles Vargas ample time to see her, Williams said.

City News Service contributed to this article.