A Stanislaus County judge Thursday held a Turlock man over for trial on three counts of murder in the September 2014 deaths of three people he hit with his car.
Authorities say a car driven by Luis Miguel Cruz hit 4-year-old Brian Flores; his mother, Julia Flores, 20; and his grandmother, Elena Flores, 47, as they walked on the sidewalk in southwest Turlock. Emily Flores, 2, was walking with her brother, mother and grandmother but wasn’t injured.
At the time of the crash, Cruz was driving about 60 mph in a residential area where the speed limit was 25 mph. And after he hit the three pedestrians, the car kept going until it slammed into a nearby house, prosecutors said. Cruz and a friend tried to run from the scene but were stopped by passersby.
A Turlock police officer who testified Thursday said Cruz displayed signs of intoxication and failed a field sobriety test. A breathalyzer test, given three hours after the crash, registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.16 and 0.17, or twice the legal limit.
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Deputy Public Defender Marlon Simon argued during Thursday’s preliminary hearing that Cruz should be held to answer on lesser charges, saying the prosecution had not demonstrated that Cruz knew his behavior was risky. Regarding a 2007 arrest for driving under the influence, Simon noted that Cruz was stopped for a vehicle violation, not a driving problem, and that the case was dropped.
And in the fatal crash, “There was no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Cruz saw the victims” before hitting them, Simon said.
But Deputy District Attorney Anthony Colacito pointed out that Cruz initially told investigators a man named “Juan” from Merced had been driving because Cruz knew he would be drinking and didn’t want to get cited. Even after hitting the family, Cruz displayed an “I don’t care” attitude, trying to leave the scene rather than render any aid, Colacito said.
Judge Rick Distaso ordered Cruz held on murder charges; he is set to return to court Oct. 29 for arraignment.