Another day, another previous drunken-driving defendant in his 20s facing a murder charge after a fatal crash on an Orange County road. Already this month: Neil Storm Stephany, 23, of Huntington Beach, was charged with second-degree murder in a suspected drunken driving fueled collision that killed a bicyclist in Newport Beach; and Placentia's Adam Harrison Hall lost an appeal of a murder conviction for running a red light while blazing on drugs, killing a woman walking with a lost dog in Laguna Niguel. Hall was 27 at the time.
The Orange County District Attorney's office has now slapped a murder charge on 23-year-old Herbert Granados Calderon, who like Stephany and Hall had a previous DUI conviction and a warning that he could face a murder count for a future DUI fatality.
A Lexus with five people inside was going southbound on Bristol Street just after 9:20 p.m. Saturday when it ran a red light at Central Avenue and broadsided a Honda, which then slammed into a Chevy pickup, according to Santa Ana Police.
Calderon, the driver of the Lexus, and his four passengers were taken to a hospital for injuries ranging from minor to serious. The truck driver was not hurt, but the lone occupant of the Honda, 18-year-old Robert Rubio, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Though hospitalized, Calderon was initially arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and held in lieu of $100,000 bail. But with investigators having learned of the driver's full DUI history, Santa Ana Police presented a case of murder to Orange County prosecutors, according to Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, the department spokesman. Calderon's bail was revoked as well.
Santa Ana's request was granted: Calderon faces a count of second-degree murder and two felony counts of driving under the influence of alcohol in a crash that caused injury, confirmed Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker Tuesday, adding that the defendant is also charged with two sentence enhancements of inflicting great bodily harm.
A City News Service report reveals:
As recently as Oct. 16, Calderon pleaded guilty to driving on a revoked or suspended license and was sentenced to 45 days in jail, but the sentence was suspended, according to Orange County Superior Court records. It was the third time since last year he has pleaded guilty to the same charge, according to court records.
Calderon's was convicted on June 18, 2013, to driving under the influence and on a suspended license, according to court records. That case stems from his arrest on Feb. 2, 2012, and for that guilty plea he was sentenced to a few days in jail, three years of probation and ordered to appear before a Mothers Against Drunk Driving panel in which victims tell offenders how drunk driving affected their lives, according to court
In DUI crashes where someone other than the impaired driver dies, a first-time offender is routinely charged with manslaughter. The difference with a second-degree murder conviction for a repeat offender can be a 15 year to life sentence in state prison.