A drunk motorist who fatally struck a Lyft driver tending to a sick passenger on a freeway shoulder knew the dangers of drinking and driving but did it anyway, a prosecutor told a jury Thursday.
Steven Quintero, 25, went on trial for a second time on murder and manslaughter charges in the Oct. 1, 2016, death of 41-year-old Henry O. Reyes of Escondido.
A jury in April found Quintero guilty of DUI causing injury, hit-and- run and driving on a suspended license, but was deadlocked 6-6 on a second- degree murder charge and 10-2 for guilt on a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter.
Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright said Quintero — who had a prior DUI conviction from November 2015 — “was warned of the dangers of drinking and driving, (but) he did it anyway.”
Defense attorney Suesan Gerard told the jury in the retrial that Quintero — who has a severe learning disability — made some bad decisions but “is not a murderer.”
A passenger in the Lyft car, Kelly Hoffman, testified at a hearing last year that she and two friends were dropped off about 11 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2016, and had drinks at a couple of downtown San Diego nightclubs before stopping for some gelato.
As they headed home about 1 a.m. in the Lyft car driven by Reyes, passenger Sarah Smith got sick and Reyes pulled onto the shoulder of eastbound state Route 94 near 28th Street to get her out of the car and give her some water, Hoffman testified.
Minutes later, the Lyft car was hit from behind and Reyes — an aspiring dentist and the father of a 2-year-old child — was killed as he walked around the front of the car to get back in.
Hoffman, who was on the phone in the backseat when the collision occurred, said she “was hit so hard I didn’t know where I was” and suffered a broken bone on the top of her foot, whiplash and a concussion.
Smith, who had cuts to her chin, a neck injury and a bruised spine, said she has no memory of the crash.
According to court testimony, Quintero was entering the freeway at 25th Street when he slammed into the back of Reyes’ Kia.
Quintero walked away from the collision but was arrested nearby a short time later. A female passenger in his car suffered a broken wrist.
–City News Service