Woman accused of killing man in Perris DUI crash arraigned

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Valley News/Ryan Ponitz file photo

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A woman accused of running over and killing a 53-year-old pedestrian while driving under the influence in Perris pleaded not guilty today to second-degree murder.

Lizbet Diaz, who also is charged with probation violations, was arraigned before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Eric Keen, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Jan. 31 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.

The 27-year-old Riverside resident, who is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, is charged with fatally injuring Rogelio Merlan of Moreno Valley about 7 p.m. on Nov. 9.

According to sheriff’s Sgt. Orlando Castaneda, Diaz was allegedly speeding eastbound in her sedan on San Jacinto Avenue when she veered to the right, hitting two parked vehicles before plowing into Merlan, who was walking on the shoulder of the roadway near Dunlap Drive. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

Diaz suffered a minor injury and was taken to Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley for treatment, after which she was booked into jail.

Castaneda alleged that investigators confirmed the defendant was intoxicated, though her blood-alcohol reading was not disclosed.

According to court records, Diaz has a misdemeanor DUI conviction from last year that resulted in a sentence of 36 months probation, as well as compulsory attendance in a rehabilitation program that included classes stressing the dangers of drunken driving.

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.