Man in ATV DUI daughter death case takes a plea

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Artemio Sierra, 34, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in the ATV DUI crash that killed his daughter and will be sentenced to prison.

Sierra taken into custody; will serve prison time for daughter’s death

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – The man who recklessly drove an ATV while intoxicated with his two young daughters riding on the back – injuring one and killing the other – has pleaded guilty to negligent homicide.

Artemio Sierra, 34, appeared in Graham County Superior Court for a change-of-plea hearing Tuesday, June 5, and pleaded guilty to an amended count of negligent homicide – a Class-4 felony – and an amended count of endangerment – a Class-6 felony. Sierra previously balked during a scheduled change-of-plea hearing in May.

After the hearing, Sierra was taken into custody and booked into the Graham County Adult Detention Facility due to his crime carrying a prison-mandatory sentence. 

However, by taking the plea, Sierra greatly reduces the amount of time he could have been sentenced to prison. He previously was charged with manslaughter, two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of aggravated DUI, and two counts of child abuse.

Ximena Sierra, 8, left, died at UMC on July 28, 2017, after being taken off life support. Her sister, Ludwyka, 9, responded well to treatment was released from the hospital. Both girls were injured while riding on an ATV with their father, Artemio Sierra.

Instead of decades behind bars, Sierra will face a sentencing schedule that ranges from a mitigated minimum sentence of 1 year; a presumptive sentence of 2.5 years; and an aggravated maximum sentence of 3.75 years. Sentencing is scheduled for July 18, starting at 1:30 p.m. The length of his sentence (within those parameters) will be up to the judge.

After Sierra is released from prison, he will also have a probation tail on the endangerment charge, which will likely be standard probation for three years.

Sierra’s charges stem from an ill-fated ATV ride July 23, 2017, that ended with the death of Sierra’s daughter, Ximena Sierra, 8, and severely injuring another, Ludwyka Sierra, then 9.

Ximena was riding on the back of a Honda 400 ATV with Ludwyka, while Artemio operated the vehicle while intoxicated. The Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Crime Lab in Tucson listed Artemio’s blood sample taken hours after the crash to have a blood/alcohol content at .09, which is just over the limit of .08 for a standard DUI charge.

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: The girls were flown to a Tucson hospital on board a LifeNet helicopter like the one pictured here.

According to his statements to police, Artemio said it was just before 7:30 p.m. and he was traveling home at about 40 mph when the ATV struck a berm, causing both girls to be thrown from the vehicle and knocked unconscious.

Ximena didn’t have a pulse when she was brought into the Emergency Room at Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center. ER staff managed to restart her heart prior to her being airlifted to Tucson, but she later died at Banner-University Medical Center Tucson on July 28, 2017, after being taken off life support due to no brain function.

Ludwyka responded well to treatment and was released from the hospital.

According to police reports, neither of the girls were wearing helmets as required by state law.