Cecilia Diaz Vasquez & Pedro Davila, 40

Couple killed in Hollywood leave behind three children

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Richard Winton
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

July 17, 2008

HOLLYWOOD — After sunset Sunday, an immigrant couple set out down Hollywood Boulevard on foot, headed from work to their nearby apartment.

As they walked hand in hand, a former Marine out drinking with a friend steered his car onto the boulevard. Sergio Delgado, 29, was fleeing police who had tried to stop him for reckless driving.

Cecilia Diaz Vasquez, 32, and Pedro Davila, 40, stepped into the crosswalk at Wilcox Avenue about 8:45 p.m. just as Delgado ran a red light.

In a moment, the couple were dead. It took hours for officials to identify the bodies, and in the days that followed, details have emerged about them and the man charged with killing them.

Davila started the day like many others since he and Vasquez crossed illegally into the U.S. from Mexico a year ago. They came to earn money to support their three children, whom they left with grandparents in their hometown in the Mexican state of Veracruz.

On Sunday morning, Davila walked from his spare studio apartment on Wilcox Avenue to his job at Combo's Pizza & Deli in the 6700 block of Hollywood Boulevard. He worked his shift cleaning the kitchen and restaurant, owner George Comboianu said.

About 8 p.m., Vasquez met Davila at the pizzeria and they used a cellphone to call their children in Martinez de La Torre. The children had been excited to hear from their parents, said a relative reached Wednesday in Mexico. Monserrat Arely Davila, 15, Diego Davila, 14, and Guadalupe Davila, 8, often cried for their parents to return home, family members said. Phone calls were rare because of the cost.

The parents and children talked for several minutes Sunday night. The youngsters were excited about a visit their parents had planned for this month. Then the line abruptly failed.

It was 8:27 p.m. The children waited by the phone, hoping for them to call back. But their parents had left the pizzeria to walk home.

Los Angeles police officers saw Delgado about 8:45 p.m. and began following him as he accelerated and ignored several traffic signals. They suspected he was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Delgado, a married father with a young son, was born in Guadalajara and came to California as a child, according to a relative. He was a graduate of John Marshall High School who joined the Marines at 19, his sister said. He was convicted of driving under the influence in 2003 and of illegally driving in a bus lane in 2006.

Delgado, who also uses the name Delgado Valle, had been working at a mortgage brokerage in the San Fernando Valley, according to his sister, who spoke on the condition that she not be identified, saying she had not talked to authorities about the case.

She described Delgado as a military veteran who has suffered from post traumatic stress since serving in Afghanistan. Marine Corps officials, however, said this week that their records show Delgado served as an administrative clerk and they have no record of his being stationed in Afghanistan. Delgado left active duty as a lance corporal in August 2003, military records show.

On Sunday night as police followed him, Delgado slowed at Highland Avenue and Yucca Street to let a passenger, whom police are still seeking, jump out of the car. When Delgado reached Hollywood Boulevard and headed east, the officers began pursuing him with their lights and siren on, police said. The pursuit lasted about a minute.

At the Wilcox crosswalk, Delgado swerved to the far left, going around vehicles stopped at the light. Vasquez and Davila, still holding hands, were in his path. Authorities said it was unlikely they had time to react.

The car's impact tossed their bodies across the intersection into the opposite crosswalk, police said.

After the crash, Delgado drove on for a block. Then he tried to run away, but bystanders held him down until police arrived, investigators said. He smelled of alcohol, and his blood-alcohol level was "well above the legal limit," said Det. Nelson Hernandez, although no containers of alcohol were recovered from the car.

Delgado was belligerent at the scene, Hernandez said, swearing at police, and he continued to swear and threaten officers even after he was taken to a local hospital.

Identifying Vasquez and Davila took hours. Neither was carrying much with them. Davila had a key chain labeled "Pedro," a CVS pharmacy card and a wallet with a business card that didn't reveal his identity.

Local business owners knew the couple from their cleaning work and helped investigators locate Vasquez's brother. Felix Vasquez, 38, got a call from the coroner's office at 3 a.m. Monday.

Relatives in Mexico said Wednesday that the children were still in shock.

"They just can't believe it happened," said Laura Vasquez Hernandez, 38, a cousin of Vasquez reached in Mexico on Wednesday. "It was so far away that you don't know how to feel, something that far away."

Delgado was charged this week with two counts of murder, two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter with intoxication, and felony fleeing the scene. Authorities said he still had not talked to investigators. He is being held in lieu of $1-million bail.

In Hollywood, Felix Vasquez said he was trying find a way to ship the bodies of his sister and her longtime love back to Mexico, but the paperwork and cost seemed overwhelming.

Neighbors on Wilcox Avenue have raised nearly $150, and local business owners have offered to help.

At his sister's apartment Wednesday, Felix Vasquez said he still thought of her as a baby, when he used to help change her diapers. Around him, a chair in the small room was stacked with new clothes, Valentine's Day cards, shoes and other gifts his sister and Davila had planned to send home.

Now, he said with tears in his eyes, he is worried about their orphaned children. His sister and Davila had just sent $900 to support them last month, but Vasquez said the money would soon run out. Their grandparents in Mexico cannot afford to care for them alone.

Felix Vasquez said his sister and Davila loved living in Hollywood. She kept a photo album full of snapshots -- the two of them in a lush garden; one of him posing next to the Hollywood Boulevard star for Cantinflas, the Mexican comic. But she missed her children.

In a notebook left in the apartment, she wrote about how strange she felt, living in another country where she looked different and didn't know the customs.

"Give me another year to live," Vasquez, a devout Roman Catholic, wrote in Spanish. "Yes, Lord, one year closer to my children."

Times staff writers Francisco Vara-Orta and Tony Perry contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008, printed with permission.