A 30-year-old man pleaded not guilty Monday to two counts of second-degree murder in connection with an alleged alcohol-fueled crash that killed a pair of construction workers in Orange.
Hipolito Paez, who’s also charged with a misdemeanor count of driving without a valid driver’s license, faces 30 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, which alleges that his blood-alcohol level was .12 at the time of last Thursday night’s crash. The legal limit is .08.
Paez, who was ordered to return to court June 15 for a pretrial hearing, was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in February 2014 and failed to appear for his arraignment in that case, which is still pending, court records show.
The victims, 50-year-old Elias Juarez of Temecula and 35-year-old James Sanderson of San Marcos, were working for an independent contractor, doing road work on East Santiago Canyon Road east of Jamboree Road, when they were struck at 8:48 p.m. Thursday, police and prosecutors said.
The suspect was driving west on East Santiago Canyon Road when he slammed into a pickup truck parked in a bike lane. The victims, who were pronounced dead at the scene, were next to the truck and an “arrow board,” said Sgt. Phil McMullin of the Orange Police Department.
Paez-Vazquez remained at the scene and was arrested, McMullin said.