Accused street racer sentenced to prison in death of beloved music teacher killed in Hawthorne crash

on Jul7

A 24-year-old man was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday in connection with a suspected illegal street race in Hawthorne last year that killed a popular elementary school music teacher.

More than a dozen friends and family of the victim, Benny Golbin, 36, attended the emotional court hearing, including some who detailed how their lives have spiraled since the fatal crash.

Golbin’s wife, Anchesa Bunyasai, said that each time her husband would leave home, she would tell him to drive safely, even though in decades of driving, he had never had a traffic ticket. She said she wonders whether those words meant “anything at all” to the defendants in the case.

“To lose a good soul like that to a senseless car accident is demoralizing,” Bunyasai said.

She spoke before Alfredo Perez Davila was sentenced on a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter. Originally, Davila faced one count each of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter and engaging in a speed contest, according to prosecutors.

Last week, Davila agreed to plead no contest to the lesser charge.

He and Anthony Leon Holley, 41, were accused of racing each other — the former in a silver Chevrolet Cobalt and the latter in a red Camaro — northbound along Crenshaw Boulevard on Jan. 15, 2016, when the collision occurred.

Authorities said at the time that Davila lost control of the Cobalt and swerved across several lanes of traffic before striking the center median and sailing airborne into southbound traffic.

The Cobalt slammed into a Honda CRV traveling south, instantly killing Golbin, an alto saxophone player who was driving from his job teaching a music class at Children of Promise Preparatory Academy in Inglewood and was on his way to teach another class in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District.

The Cobalt rolled over Golbin’s car, which was ripped apart in the impact. The Cobalt landed upright, and parts of its transmission were found in Golbin’s vehicle because of the catastrophic force, police said at the time.

Despite his car being badly damaged, Davila was not injured and was arrested at the scene, police said.

The Camaro continued driving, but Holley turned himself in later. Holley pleaded no contest to a felony hit-and-run charge as part of a plea deal in which the count would be reduced to a misdemeanor if he agreed to testify against Davila or his testimony became unnecessary. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 25.

In addition to his classes at Children of Promise, Golbin taught woodwind ensembles at elementary schools in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, as well as private and group lessons at AMUSE, the Palos Verdes Music Center. Those who knew him described him as a beloved teacher who was irreplaceable.

At Thursday’s hearing, Golbin’s sister, Carli Golbin, detailed how she had to tell her young children, then 4 and 2, what had happened to their uncle and that sometimes bad things happen to good people.

“My grief over losing him is a life sentence that will never go away,” she said.

A professional saxophonist who performed at home and abroad for more than 15 years, Golbin recorded a solo jazz album and a holiday album. He had nearly finished recording his first album of contemporary music.

As Golbin’s mother, Sheri Kessel, encouraged Davila to try to raise awareness about deadly street racing, the man nodded his head in agreement.

“This is the nightmare that can happen,” she said.

Staff writer Hailey Branson-Potts contributed to this report.

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

Twitter: @NicoleSantaCruz


UPDATES:

1:25 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details about the charges that Davila originally faced and Holley’s plea.

This article was originally published at 12:20 p.m.



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