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Driver in fatal Wichita chase receives life sentence

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, June 27, 2014, at 6:08 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, June 27, 2014, at 7:59 p.m.

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A Wichitan found guilty of first-degree murder after causing the death of another man during a high-speed chase was sentenced this week to life in prison.

Keith Ritz, 35, was sentenced Thursday by Sedgwick County District Judge David Kaufman. Ritz is not eligible for parole until he has served 20 years, District Attorney spokesman Dan Dillon said.

A jury took 50 minutes to deliberate on May 14 before finding Ritz guilty of the seven counts he faced.

Those counts included the murder charge that came out of an incident on March 5, 2013. Ritz was fleeing from police in a stolen truck about 10 a.m. when he ran a stop sign and struck another truck on the driver’s side at Harry and Wichita.

Venancio Perez, 39, who was driving the other truck, died at the scene. Prosecutors said the chase reached speeds of 64 mph.

Ritz’s sentencing included a December 2012 chase when he crashed a stolen Corvette. He had previously pleaded guilty to driving while a habitual violator.

Last month, the estate of Perez filed suit seeking $3 million in damages from the city and others, claiming the chase was “carried out with reckless disregard for the safety of others,” according to court documents.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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