An alleged drunken driver accused of going the wrong way on Interstate 15 between Mira Mesa and Scripps Ranch, causing a head-on crash that killed two of five family members in the other car, was ordered Thursday to stand trial on charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI causing injury.
Shane Gerald McDonald, 22, faces nearly 16 years in state prison if convicted, Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright said. McDonald — who is out of custody on $500,000 bail — had his trial set for April.
Authorities said Rodolfo de la Torre, 55, and Teresa Esparza Hernandez, 84, both of Escondido, were killed when a black Audi driven by McDonald slammed into their Honda sedan about 3 a.m. on May 2, south of Mercy Road.
De la Torre was driving south in an I-15 express lane when the Audi, heading north in their lane, hit the Honda head-on, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Three other family members in the back seat of the Honda suffered major injuries. McDonald’s attorney, Cole Casey, argued to Superior Court Judge Kenneth So during a preliminary hearing that the defendant to be held to answer on charges of vehicular manslaughter with ordinary negligence, not gross negligence.
Casey said McDonald entered the express lane on a new ramp that he was not familiar with and drove the wrong way.
“He made a wrong turn,” the defense attorney said.
Casey said McDonald is from Guam, where freeways and on-ramps don’t exist. But Bright told the judge that the totality of the situation warranted a bindover on two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter.
The prosecutor said McDonald admitted to a CHP officer at the hospital that he had too much to drink that night. The defendant’s blood-alcohol level was measured at .14 percent an hour after the crash.
Bright said the collision occurred at freeway speed and the defendant’s car did not leave any brake marks. Gavin Loy testified that he was driving southbound on I-15 on his way to work when he saw McDonald’s Audi going the wrong way and crash into the victims’ car.
“It seemed head-on, and it was horrific,” Loy testified. Loy said McDonald got out of his car and “smelled like alcohol and wanted to get away,” but Loy and another witness told him to sit down.
McDonald told officers that he had been to a party in the Del Cerro area the night before, where he had “more than three beers and two shots of vodka,” according to court testimony.
The judge scheduled trial for April 18.
— City News City