Two Woodland residents were among three people killed Friday morning in a San Joaquin County collision that has the at-fault driver facing second-degree murder charges, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Officer Mark Petricevich of the CHP’s Stockton office said that driver, 23-year-old Coleen Torres of Lodi, is believed to have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash, despite having learned the dangers of drunken driving from a prior DUI conviction.
Torres was hospitalized with broken ankles following the 12:05 a.m. crash on Interstate 5 near the town of Thornton and is expected to be jailed upon her release, Petricevich said.
According to CHP reports, Torres was driving a Jeep Cherokee northbound on I-5 near Walnut Grove Road at a high rate of speed when she rear-ended a big rig, causing her to lose control of her vehicle and veer into the freeway’s southbound lanes.
The Jeep struck a Volkswagen Beetle occupied by the three victims “and just tore the car apart,” Petricevich said.
All three victims, who reportedly were not wearing seat belts, died at the scene. They were identified Friday as Woodland residents Vincent Cruz, 56, and Nadara Guerrero Cruz, 42; and 53-year-old Monica Martinez of West Sacramento.
Petricevich said Torres’ prior drunken-driving conviction would have resulted in what’s called a “Watson admonishment,” which since 2001 has required people convicted of DUI to receive a verbal warning, as well as sign a form “stating that they understand that driving under the influence is inherently dangerous to human life,” and that they can be charged with murder upon future offenses resulting in death.
In addition to three counts second-degree murder, Torres faces charges of driving under the influence causing serious bodily injury or death, Petricevich said.
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene