A California Highway Patrol cruiser. Photo by John Schreiber.
A California Highway Patrol cruiser. MNLA.com photo by John Schreiber.

A drugged driver who caused a multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 15 in Temecula that killed a Murrieta woman pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder.

Javier Caldera, 27, of Auburn, Washington, also pleaded guilty to felony charges of driving under the influence of drugs, reckless driving and hit-and-run with sentence-enhancing great bodily injury allegations, as part of a plea agreement with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office in which no charges were dropped.

The plea deal was submitted during a status hearing before Superior Court Judge F. Paul Dickerson, who scheduled a sentencing hearing for July 28 at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.

The defendant is being held without bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

The June 4, 2019, collision killed 44-year-old Janet Genao.

The defendant was behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Silverado that was traveling over 100 mph on southbound I-15, near Rancho California Road, when the pickup slammed into the back of Genao’s Nissan Altima at 7:28 a.m., causing a chain-reaction crash involving four other vehicles, according to prosecutors.

The force of the impact also sent a Chevrolet S-10 pickup off the road and into the side of the Temecula City Hall parking structure, just west of the freeway, mangling the pickup and rendering it nearly unrecognizable, according to the California Highway Patrol.

That driver suffered major injuries from which he has since recovered. Two other motorists suffered minor injuries, as did Caldera, and another driver whose vehicle was hit escaped injury.

All of the injured parties were treated at Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar.

Prosecutors said the defendant has prior convictions in Washington state, including driving under the influence and felony attempt to elude law enforcement.

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.

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