A former Miramar-based Marine accused of driving the wrong way while drunk, causing a head-on freeway collision that killed two UCSD medical students and injured three others, rejected an offer to plead guilty Wednesday and had his case set for trial next year.
Jason Riley King, 23, is charged with second-degree murder and other counts in the May 16, 2015, deaths of 23-year-old Madison Cornwell and one of her passengers, 24-year-old Anne Li Baldock.
At a change of plea hearing Wednesday morning, King rejected an offer to plead guilty to second-degree murder and DUI, with a sentence of 15 years to life plus eight years behind bars.
He also rejected a prosecution offer to plead guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI and attempted murder, with a sentence of more than 25 years in prison.
Superior Court Judge Joan Weber scheduled King’s trial for Feb. 14. He faces 30 years to life in prison plus 14 years if convicted as charged, said Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright.
One of the passengers in Cornwell’s car, UCSD medical student Stosh Ozog, testified during a preliminary hearing last year that the victims left a celebration party in Hillcrest about 1:30 a.m.
Cornwell, the designated driver for the group, dropped off one person, then proceeded onto northbound state Route 163, Ozog testified.
The witness said he didn’t remember the accident, which happened when King allegedly drove southbound in the northbound lanes of the freeway just north of Interstate 8, sending his truck head-on into the victims’ 2014 Prius.
Authorities said friends told them that King had been drinking with buddies at a Mission Beach motel before leaving to meet a friend at a bar. One buddy told authorities that he tried to get King to stay at the motel, but the defendant left.
Hannah Talbott, also a Marine and King’s best friend, said she noticed King stumbling after having drinks at a Mission Valley bar and told him he was in no condition to drive.
Talbott said she suggested going to her apartment, but King said “he got himself there and he was capable of getting himself home.”
—City News Service