- Date of Crime: 2007-11-22
- Location of crime:
- Hometown: Oakland, CA
- Sex: F
- Age: 3
- Sex: M
- Arrest Status: charged
- Nationality: Mexico
- DUI: Perpetrator was DUI or charged with DUI.
On November 22, 2007 a hit-and-run driver killed two girls and critically injured two other members of their family on their way to a Thanksgiving dinner in Oakland, California when their car was struck by an SUV that ran a stop sign.
Stephanie Cervantez, 14, who had been holding a plate of turkey, died at the scene.
Her 4-year-old cousin, Jacklin Monguia-Herrera, was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The driver of the Mustang, Laura Herrera, 23, mother of Jacklin Monguia, and her 3-year-old daughter, Evalyn Munguia, were critically injured.
All the victims were from Oakland.
Police arrested Carmello Salas, 28, the driver of the SUV, a few hours after the crash.
Police and witnesses said the Ford Excursion was going an estimated 80 mph when it ran the stop sign and slammed into the Mustang that was going through the intersection. The Mustang nearly rolled over and burst into flames. The SUV ricocheted off the Mustang and into a parked car. Neighbors saw the driver of the SUV stagger from the vehicle and take off limping down the street. He was with a passenger who appeared to be unhurt, neighbors said. Witnesses struggled to restrain the driver but he got away. However, one witness grabbed his wallet and jacket, police said.
Salas was found the next day after his nephew, who also was riding in the car, led investigators to him, Oakland police said.
At the accident scene, the convertible top was off the Mustang and neighbors could see that none of the occupants was moving. Some neighbors doused the flames while others tried to remove the people from the car. The young sisters were both strapped in child seats in the back; the 5-year-old was pinned so tightly against the front seat that neighbors couldn't get her out.
"It was horrible, horrible. When we realized it was kids in the car, my heart stopped," said Joyce Newsom. "Everyone came out to help. There was a lot of crying and people were really upset," she said. "Any time it comes to down to little ones like that, it's so sad."
Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Norbert Chu charged Salas with two counts of murder and two counts of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury. In addition, he had been charged with kidnapping for forcing his 17-year-old nephew to ride along with him.
While Salas was originally cited for DUI, Chu said he couldn’t charge Salas with driving while intoxicated because he wasn't arrested until about four hours after the fatal accident and wasn't tested until nearly eight hours afterward. By that time, Salas' blood alcohol level was only 0.014, well below the limit where a person is considered too intoxicated to drive.
Chu said Salas' nephew gave a statement to Oakland police that provided the basis for filing murder charges against Salas. The prosecutor said that when the nephew tried to put on his seatbelt, Salas stopped him and said, "If I die, you will too." Chu said the nephew warned Salas about the approaching Mustang, but Salas continued speeding. Salas was driving at an estimated 80 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone and ran two stop signs, according to Chu. The prosecutor said there aren't any skid marks at the accident scene, which indicates that Salas didn't make any effort to avoid the other car.
Salas could face a prison sentence of at least 30 years to life if convicted.
Chu said I.C.E. has placed a deportation hold on Salas because he's in the U.S. illegally from Mexico.
At the time of the accident, Salas was on probation on a 2006 battery conviction, and also has a driving under the influence conviction from 2004.
Documentation:23NOV07, Examiner, Atlanta, GA
Suspect arrested in fatal Oakland hit-and-run
24NOV07, San Francisco Chronicle –
Suspect arrested in Oakland hit-run that kills 5-year-old, teen, by Carolyn Jones
26NOV07, Examiner, Atlanta, GA
Driver charged with murder in hit-and-run