An unlicensed driver accused of plowing his pickup truck into a vehicle at a Jurupa Valley intersection while under the influence, killing four people, pleaded not guilty Thursday to four counts of DUI gross vehicular manslaughter.
George Marchan Ponce, 30, is also charged with driving on a suspended or revoked license in connection with the Oct. 23 crash that killed 23-year-old Marco Aguilar, 20-year-old Nicholas Cahill, 25-year-old Jellsey Clinton and 20-year-old Daniel Smith — all of Riverside.
The defendant, who is being held in lieu of $300,000 bail at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside, was arraigned before Riverside County Superior Court Judge David Gunn, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Jan. 22 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
According to sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Gutierrez, Ponce was at the wheel of a pickup going north on Van Buren Boulevard when he tried to make a sharp turn to head west on 56th Street about 11:45 p.m.
“The driver failed to negotiate the turn and traveled into southbound lanes on Van Buren … (where he) collided with the vehicle occupied by the four individuals,” Gutierrez said.
Two other motorists going south on Van Buren were hit by debris from the collision, but they avoided impact, according to Gutierrez. Paramedics reached the location within a few minutes and pronounced all of the victims in the impacted car dead at the scene, he said.
Ponce was in his truck when deputies arrived and was taken into custody without a struggle. He was hospitalized for two weeks, recovering from injuries he suffered in the crash, before he was cleared by doctors to make his initial court appearance earlier this month.
According to court records, the defendant has prior convictions for battery on a domestic partner and hit-and-run resulting in property damage, both misdemeanors.