MURRIETA (CNS) – A convicted felon accused of killing two women and injuring two other people in an alleged DUI crash in Menifee pleaded not guilty Monday to two counts of second-degree murder and other offenses.
Jose Luis Sepulveda, 31, was arrested and charged last week following a monthlong investigation by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Along with the murder counts, Sepulveda is charged with two counts of DUI resulting in great bodily injury and misdemeanor allegations of driving on a suspended license and failure to appear for previous court hearings.
He was arraigned before Superior Court Judge Stephen Gallon, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for March 13 at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.
The defendant is being held in lieu of $2 million bail at the Byrd Detention Center.
According to sheriff’s Sgt. Dominic Schreiber, on the night of Jan. 24, Sepulveda was going eastbound on Railroad Canyon Road, allegedly intoxicated, when he plowed into the rear of a sedan going in the same direction, just past Goetz Road.
The sedan was propelled across the center divider and slammed into a westbound car, Schreiber said.
He said occupants of both vehicles were seriously injured. An occupant of the westbound car, 57-year-old Benita Heyden, died at the scene. Her friend, 58-year-old Tina Slatten, was taken to Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley, where she died several hours later.
Sepulveda suffered moderate injuries and was hospitalized, along with occupants of the car he struck, who have since recovered.
According to court records, the defendant has prior convictions for possession of controlled substances, robbery and driving under the influence. He also was involved in an additional DUI case that’s unresolved.
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.