A man who stole an SUV in downtown Nogales after evicting its two child occupants from the back seat, then fell asleep at the wheel and rolled the vehicle on the interstate, was sentenced to seven years in state prison.

Randy Nesseth, 36, was sentenced July 1 by Judge Thomas Fink of Santa Cruz County Superior Court after he pleaded guilty to one count of car theft, a Class 3 felony, and two counts of robbery, Class 4 felonies. The judge gave Nesseth seven years for the first offense and three years each for the other two convictions, and ordered the terms to be served concurrently.

Nesseth was also required to pay $6,103 in restitution to the owner of the stolen vehicle.

According to court records, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office was notified at around 2 p.m. on July 14, 2018 of a vehicle theft near the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry. Responding deputies learned that a couple had parked their vehicle – identified in court documents as a 2004 Chevy Trailblazer – on the street and gone into a store, leaving their two children in the SUV and the keys in the ignition.

A few minutes later, the two boys ran into the store, saying someone had stolen the vehicle. A man reportedly got into the driver’s seat, then told them to get out, they said.

During a pre-sentencing interview on May 13, Nesseth told a probation officer that he had just crossed the border in Nogales and was looking for a car with keys in the ignition.

“I just wanted to get a car because I was experiencing paranoia and anxiety. I was on a fight or flight mode,” he reportedly said.

He saw the vehicle in question and got in. Then he heard children’s voices in the back seat, saw the two boys and told them to get out. Then he drove north on Interstate 19.

A short time later, the car rolled on the interstate after Nesseth reportedly fell asleep. He tried to run from the scene of the crash, but was chased down by police and apprehended.

Court and prison records show that Nesseth had previously been sentenced to a total of 13 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections for burglary, weapons misconduct and aggravated assault.

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