A Murrieta man is scheduled to make his initial court appearance Wednesday on second-degree murder and drunken driving charges stemming from a fatal Palm Springs crash last month.
Michael Torrez, 33, was injured in the March 16 collision and remained hospitalized until this week.
Prosecutors last Friday filed a second-degree murder charge against Torrez, rather than vehicular manslaughter, because he has a 2008 DUI conviction. Drivers with DUI convictions are warned at sentencing that if they drive under the influence and cause a death, they could face a murder charge.
Just before the 11 p.m. crash that killed 25-year-old Palm Springs resident Mario Garcia, Torrez was driving westbound on Ramon Road in a pickup truck, “swerving in and out of the lanes at a high rate of speed,” an arrest warrant declaration alleges.
While passing El Cielo Road, Torrez’s Ford F-150 rear-ended a Nissan Versa, then veered into a Nissan Sentra driven by Garcia. The Versa was sent into a curb and street sign after being struck, but its occupants were uninjured, according to Palm Springs police.
Investigators allege that Torrez had a .16 blood-alcohol content — double the legal limit — and had to be sedated and restrained as he was being transported to Desert Regional Medical Center for major injuries sustained in the crash.
He “yelled profanities at emergency personnel and he flailed his arms and attempted to free himself from restraints that were applied to him,” according to the declaration, which states that Torrez told a responding firefighter, “When I get done, I am going to (expletive) you up!”
He also allegedly yelled, “I better not get a (expletive) DUI!”
Torrez is being held on $1 million bail at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.