MURRIETA (CNS) – A man accused of driving under the influence of drugs and causing a fatal multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 15 in Temecula must stand trial for second-degree murder, a judge ruled on Friday.
Javier Caldera, 27, of Auburn, Washington, was arrested last June following the pileup that he allegedly caused on southbound I-15, just south of Rancho California Road.
At the end of a preliminary hearing, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mark Mandio determined there was enough evidence to warrant a trial on the murder count, along with driving under the influence resulting in great bodily injury, hit-and-run with property damage and a sentence-enhancing allegation of injuring multiple people in a DUI crash.
Mandio scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for April 3 at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta. Caldera is being held without bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
The defendant is accused of killing 44-year-old Janet Genao of Murrieta in the June 4 collision.
Caldera was behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Silverado pickup that was traveling over 100 mph when it slammed into the back of Genao’s Nissan Altima at 7:28 a.m., causing a chain-reaction crash involving four other vehicles, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
The force of the impact also sent a Chevrolet S-10 pickup off the road and into the side of the Temecula City Hall parking structure, just west of the freeway, mangling the pickup and rendering it nearly unrecognizable. The driver, whose identity was not disclosed, suffered major injuries from which he has since recovered, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Two other motorists suffered minor injuries, and another driver whose vehicle was hit escaped injury, said CHP Officer Mike Lassig.
Caldera received minor injuries.
All of the injured parties were treated at Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar.
According to prosecutors, the defendant has prior convictions in Washington state, including driving under the influence and felony attempt to elude law enforcement.
Under California law, a convicted DUI offender who is aware of the risks of drinking and driving and then causes someone’s death because of it can be charged with murder.