- (Photo: Courtesy Nevada Highway Patrol)
Jean Ervin Soriano, 18, has been charged with seven felony counts of driving under the influence and causing death or substantial injury. The teen was a California juvenile detention escapee who caused a freeway crash that killed five people and injured two others.
"He's a young kid, very scared, distraught," Soriano's attorney, Frank Cofer, told the Associated Press. He has advised Soriano to plead "not guilty" when he faces the judge.
Soriano reportedly escaped from the Youth Guidance Center on March 1, but apparently no one noticed or was asked to help look for the teen. Now the Center is being investigated for its handling of Soriano's escape, which led to five deaths.
"This was handled incredibly nonchalantly," Todd Spitzer, a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, told the Huffington Post. "Why didn't the board know for more than a month? The only reason we found out about him was that he killed five people."
Soriano and a friend were driving on I-15 when they rear-ended a van, which then flipped over. Five of the seven people inside were killed instantly. Genaro Fernandez, Raudel Fernandez-Avila, Belen Fernandez, Angela Sandoval, and Leonardo Fernandez-Avila all died, while Maria Rosario Cardanas and Eddie Sandoval were seriously injured.
According to the Nevada Highway Patrol, Soriano admitted he had had "too many" beers before driving, and several beer bottles were found in the vehicle he drove. His blood alcohol content at the time of the crash was 0.12, the legal limit is 0.08. Police immediately took him into custody, and he is currently being held on $3.5 million bail.
"What did we do, if anything, and could we have done something to prevent this tragedy?" Spitzer asked. "I don't have the answers. I've demanded the answers, but haven't gotten them."
Spitzer has called for an official investigation into the handling of Soriano's case, including why the Sheriff's Department and Orange County Probation Department were not notified of Soriano's disappearance.