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Family, Friends of Hit-and-Run Victim Express Pain, Anger : Crime: The defendant looks on tearfully as a judge hears Hal Bivens' loved ones lament his death. They call for harsh punishment for the driver who killed the bicyclist.

August 26, 1995|KEN ELLINGWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — The grief expressed by Hal Bivens' heartbroken family and friends even put tears in the eyes of the motorist they want thrown in prison for allegedly fleeing after his car hit and killed Bivens during a bicycle ride last month.

"I lost my wife two years ago and I've just barely gotten over the stress," said the victim's father, Leo Bivens, 84, sobbing in his wheelchair in Orange County Municipal Court. "And now this--it's like a bomb dropped. . . . I never wanted to go to one of my children's funerals."

Hal Bivens, a 59-year-old retired engineer who lectured friends on bicycle safety, was struck and killed in Anaheim July 30 during a morning ride with his group.

The defendant, Conrado M. Deleon, 28, of Orange was arrested at his home a short while later. Investigators said they tracked a vehicle witnesses saw leaving the scene of the collision.

Deleon is charged with felony hit and run and three related misdemeanor charges--including not having a driver's license--that could put him in prison for a maximum of 4 1/2 years, said Deputy District Atty. Mike Fell.

"The egregious part of this offense is that after the accident the defendant fled. That's what makes this a felony," Fell said.

The defense lawyer said Deleon will probably plead guilty during a hearing in November. During Friday's court session, Central Municipal Court Judge Marjorie Laird Carter heard from Bivens' relatives and friends. She will impose a sentence at the time of the expected plea.

Deleon, who worked the graveyard shift as a custodian, has said he fell asleep at the wheel while driving home from work and did not realize that he struck anyone, said Deputy Public Defender Robert A. Knox.

Deleon's pickup truck also hit a parked truck and, in fear, he drove home and hid under the bed, Knox said. Orange police pulled him from under the bed, according to the arrest report.

"He's devastated. He's very remorseful. He feels awful. He's a loving family man--a lot of people love him--and he feels terrible," Knox said.

Deleon, dressed in a maize jail jumpsuit, stared watery-eyed from a holding cell as bereaved relatives urged Carter to deliver the harshest punishment possible.

The victim's sister, Shirley Graham, showed the judge family photographs and cried as she described the toll on the family from losing Bivens, who retired from Beckman Instruments and also was an avid tennis player and woodworker.

"My father has lost his best friend. We have lost our best friend. And I'm not sure what we're going to do," Graham said.

"My brother was always aware of where he was," Graham said. "He was always very safety conscious."

Speakers also lashed out repeatedly at Deleon, labeling him an illegal immigrant who flouted local laws with a fatal result. But Knox said they were mistaken, that Deleon has legal resident-alien status and a clean criminal record.

Bicycling advocates view the case as a reminder of the perils they endure.

Don Harvey, who heads the Orange County Bicycle Coalition, said he suffered head injuries and broken bones after being struck by a car while riding near Lompoc in April.

Harvey leaned on his cane as he spoke after the court session.

"Motorists," he said, "should view bicyclists as equal users of the road."

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