A 55-year-old motorist who allegedly struck and killed a woman trying to help an injured wild burro just north of Moreno Valley made his initial court appearance Tuesday.

Martin Joel Ramirez Hernandez of Mecca was arrested Jan. 5 following a three-week investigation by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Hernandez is charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of 52-year-old Jacqueline Morgan of Moreno Valley.

The defendant appeared before Superior Court Judge O.G. Magno, who appointed him a public defender and scheduled his arraignment for Feb. 4 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.

The defendant is being held on $1 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.

He had been hospitalized for several weeks following the wreck, and during that time, sheriff’s investigators gathered sufficient evidence to obtain an arrest warrant for him.

According to sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Grmusha, the deadly crash happened about 11:20 p.m. on Dec. 15 along Redlands Boulevard, just north of Ironwood Avenue, in an area known as Big Horn Canyon.

Grmusha said that the chain wreck began when a 2013 Toyota Corolla hit a donkey crossing the two-lane corridor, fatally injuring the animal, which was left lying in lanes.

“The driver of the Toyota moved his vehicle from the roadway and was in the process of calling for assistance when the driver a 2007 Chevy Trail Blazer (stopped and) angled her vehicle in front of the burro in an apparent attempt to prevent a secondary collision,” the sergeant said.

The concerned motorist, Morgan, exited her SUV “and was standing near the driver’s side door when she was struck” by a 2007 Nissan Altima driven by Hernandez, according to Grmusha.

“Upon impact, the Nissan pushed the Chevy into the parked Toyota, then careened across the roadway, where it overturned in a nearby drainage ditch,” he said.

Morgan was found severely injured on the road and taken to Riverside University Medical Center. She succumbed to her injuries four days later.

Hernandez suffered extensive injuries, none of which were life-threatening. He also received treatment at the county hospital, Grmusha said.

The Toyota driver, whose identity was not released, escaped injury, the sergeant said.

According to court records, Hernandez has three misdemeanor driving under the influence cases, all originating in the Coachella Valley, going back a decade. None have been resolved, records show.

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