Suspect found guilty in death of Calif. deputy
After nearly two days of deliberations — jurors agreed that Kevin Hogrefe was guilty of the October 2014 death of Deputy Yevhen Kostiuchenko while driving drunk
By John Scheibe
Ventura County Star
VENTURA, Calif. — A Camarillo man accused of killing a Ventura County sheriff's deputy was found guilty of second-degree murder Friday, ending a years-long saga that began with the death of Yevhen "Eugene" Kostiuchenko in October 2014.
After nearly two days of deliberations — jurors agreed that Kevin Hogrefe, 27, was guilty of the October 2014 death of Deputy Yevhen “Eugene” Kostiuchenko while driving drunk.
The jury also found Hogrefe guilty of felony fleeing the scene of an accident.
Hogrefe, 27, faces 19 years to life in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Nov. 14 in Ventura County Superior Court.
Sighs of relief could be heard in the courtroom after the verdict was announced. Kostiuchenko's family and some of his friends cried and hugged each other after the brief session, which began minutes after 11 a.m.
Kostiuchenko's mother, Nadiia, and father, Anatoliy, were among those in the courtroom Friday. Both had flown from their native Ukraine to attend. The deputy's mother wept openly as she hugged her husband and Kostiuchenko's widow, Maura Kelley, after the verdict was announced.
Hogrefe, meanwhile, showed little emotion after hearing the verdict. His attorney, Justin Tuttle, a Ventura County senior public defender, asked Judge Matthew Guasco if his client could remain free on bail until the sentencing.
Guasco denied the request. A bailiff then placed handcuffs on Hogrefe before leading him out of the courtroom.
"Justice is finally served," Kelley said outside the courtroom, tears welling up in her eyes. "My life will never be the same" after her husband's death, she said.
Kelley said she'd spent a tension-filled night from Thursday into Friday after jurors had failed to reach a verdict by the close of the day Thursday.
"I thought the weight of the evidence would bring a verdict earlier than it did," she said after the verdict was announced.
Tuttle declined to comment on the case after the announcement.
The verdict followed a seven-day trial that included numerous witnesses and much testimony, mostly introduced by prosecutor Rebecca Day, a Ventura County senior deputy district attorney.
Day told jurors that Kostiuchenko died after Hogrefe had spent close to six hours drinking beer after beer, mostly at the Club House Sports Bar & Grill in Camarillo.
Jurors were shown surveillance video shot at the bar on the night of Oct. 27, 2014, during which Hogrefe drank six bottles and four mugs of beer during five and a half hours at the Pickwick Drive bar. An apparently intoxicated Hogrefe went out the bar's back door about 12:30 a.m. Day said Hogrefe then walked north across an alleyway to another bar, Take Five Cocktails.
Kellyn Bates, a waitress at Take Five, told jurors Hogrefe didn’t recognize her when he walked into the bar, even though they’d known each other since they were fifth-graders.
“It was a little bit weird because I’ve known him for so long,” Bates said. “It made me realize he was drunk."
Hogrefe was eventually told to leave after some of the bar's patrons complained that he smelled of feces, Bates said.
Day said Hogrefe then walked back to his car, which was parked in front of the Club House, and got in with the intention of driving to a fast-food restaurant on Las Posas Road south of Highway 101. Hogrefe never made it that far.
Investigators said Hogrefe's Honda struck Kostiuchenko, 41, as the deputy was about to get into his patrol car along the Lewis Road onramp to Highway 101 north, instantly killing the deputy.
Deputies found Hogrefe sitting inside his Honda after he drove into a field of ice plants next to the Las Posas Road offramp. Investigators said Hogrefe had a blood-alcohol level at the time of 0.24 to 0.26 percent – at least three times the legal limit permitted for a driver under the law.
In court Friday were numerous law-enforcement officials, including Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean.
Dean said he hopes the case will really bring home the message that "people shouldn't drink and drive."
Hogrefe, who had two previous DUI convictions before Kostiuchenko's death, "certainly should have known better than to get get behind the wheel and drive" the night the deputy was killed, Dean said, referring to a 2013 incident in Nevada and another when Hogrefe was a teenager.
"The results of his decision were horrific," Dean said.
Kelley said her late husband "was the epitome of a gentleman."
"He was kind, and he was very compassionate," she said.
Kostiuchenko grew up in a village outside Kiev, Ukraine.
He met Kelley, a retired special agent with the FBI, while he was on assignment with the Ukrainian military, working with the FBI on an international money-laundering case. They later married.
Kostiuchenko moved to California and started working for the Ventura County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services in 2003.
Three years later, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen, and shortly after that, he entered the academy to become a sheriff's deputy.