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16-month sentence awaits Duke
Larry Dale Duke averted a trial scheduled for this week and instead accepted a plea bargain that sends him to state prison for 16 months for running into a group of Mae Hensley Junior High School students on Feb. 9, killing one and seriously injuring two others.

Duke, 46, was charged by the Stanislaus County District Attorney's office for vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence as well as misdemeanor use of a controlled substance. He also was charged with reckless driving causing bodily injury.

The deal has Duke entering no contest pleas to the charges.

Traces of methamphetamine and the sleeping aid Ambien were detected in a sample of blood taken following the crash.

Danielle Tarancon, 13, died in the morning accident as she was crossing Darwin Avenue along Fowler Road on her way to school. She was walking with other students at a stop sign.

Duke was driving a raised Chevy pickup southbound on Darwin Avenue at 8:58 a.m.on Feb. 9 when approaching Fowler Road at Smyrna Park. Witnesses say Duke failed to stop at the stop sign as it was turning left onto eastbound Fowler Road. The pickup rolled over Tarancon, and also struck Nancy Zavala, dragging her across the intersection, as well as running over Jessica Garcia, who reportedly sustained a broken hip. A total of five students, all aged 13 and 14, were hit.

Duke issued a statement to a TV station saying he didn't know what happened in the fatal crash, and expressed remorse to the families of the victims.

Duke remains behind bars at the county jail and will be sentenced in January.

The Ceres resident has an extensive history of driving problems, including speeding, driving without insurance, and not wearing a seat belt. In June 2005 he was pulled over and found without a license and driving while intoxicated.

Duke was the driver of a Peterbilt dump truck which ran into the rear of a Ford Expedition on Sept. 17, 2010 on northbound Highway 99 near the Faith Home Road overpass. Duke failed to brake for slowing traffic - he said the sun was in his eyes - and the crash seriously injured Adrian Orozco, 7, of Keyes, and his parents, Juan and Myra Orozco, 32, and 31 respectively.

The D.A.'s office said Duke will get credit for time served.

The conditions of the agreement call for Dale being placed on three years' parole once he finishes his prison term, and loss of driving privileges for three years.