Freeway sniper given life sentence

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SAN DIEGO — A man who shot at cars on state Route 163 during the morning commute more than two years ago, wounding a college student and damaging the car of another motorist, was sentenced today to 25 years to life in prison, plus 11 years and four months.

Stephen Dragasits, 60, was convicted in a retrial of assault with a firearm and shooting at an occupied vehicle. Jurors deadlocked 6-6 on two counts of attempted murder.

Today, after dismissing the deadlocked counts, Judge Charles Gill imposed the maximum sentence under the law.

In her closing argument in the first trial, prosecutor Chandelle Konstanzer said Dragasits deliberately fired from his motor home, which was parked along the freeway, wounding University of San Diego student Ashley Simmons and hitting the car of Jeffrey Lloyd-Jones the morning of April 5, 2011.

In the retrial, Konstanzer said Dragasits “positioned himself like a sniper” before firing the shot that hit the now-23-year-old Simmons in the back below her shoulder, the bullet lodging in her liver.

At sentencing today, Simmons said she lives in constant pain.

“I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on Mr. Dragasits,” Simmons said.

Dragasits maintained his innocence to the end, saying he was not guilty of the crimes. The defendant even accused Konstanzer of “brainwashing” the jury to get a conviction.

A motive for the crime was not known.

“In my opinion, he (Dragasits) just did this for some weird, sick thrill, that he got out of imposing violence on random people,” Konstanzer said outside court.

During trial, defense attorney Euketa Oliver said that no one saw Dragasits shoot at anyone. In her opening statement at the retrial, Oliver questioned the methods used to get the defendant’s DNA from a shell casing found on the freeway.

Of the shell casings that were recovered on the roadway, Oliver wondered how long they had been there.

Konstanzer said Dragasits lived in his RV and liked to hang out in the vicinity of Kearny Mesa Road near the Clairemont Mesa exit. About a month before the shootings, Dragasits was convicted of throwing large rocks at cars in the same area, the prosecutor said.

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