A 41-year-old man pleaded not guilty Thursday to DUI gross vehicular manslaughter charges for the death of a 23-year-old former high school football player in Desert Hot Springs.
Jose Roberto Tafoya is charged with one felony count each of DUI gross vehicular manslaughter, DUI alcohol causing bodily injury, hit-and-run causing death or injury and a misdemeanor charge of being a unlicensed vehicle operator. He also faces sentence-enhancing allegations of fleeing the scene and causing great bodily injury.
Tafoya was arraigned Thursday before Riverside County Superior Court Judge James Hawkins, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Nov. 15 at the Larson Justice Center in Indio and ordered him held on $290,000 bail at the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio.
Tafoya was arrested at the intersection of Two Bunch Palms Trail and Palm Drive at approximately 1:30 a.m. Saturday, about an hour after allegedly killing former Shadow Hills High football star Isaiah Ortega-Dage, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The CHP said Ortega-Dage was riding in a vehicle with a female driver when they stopped between the right lane and right shoulder of Palm Drive north of Varner Road. He then got out and walked to the driver’s side of the vehicle and was struck by an oncoming pickup while standing in the right lane.
Ortega-Dage, a resident of Indio, died at the scene 14 minutes after being struck by the pickup, according to the Riverside County coroner’s office.
He had played football for Western New Mexico University after graduating from Shadow Hills High School.
“The Knights football family has lost one of their own,” Shadow Hills football coach Alex Esquibe told the Desert Sun. “Isaiah’s years at Shadow Hills were the years the foundation of our football program was being laid — the Knights of those days played a big part in making Shadow Hills known. Isaiah was a Knight through and through.”
Esquibe, who was an assistant coach when Ortega-Dage was on the team, told the newspaper: “He will be missed. We mourn with his family during these trying times and we plan to honor his legacy as our season moves forward.”
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