Wednesday, 17 July 2024

Man arrested on second-degree murder charge for fatal 2009 crash

LAKEPORT – A local man who last September allegedly sped through an intersection and collided head-on with another car, killing its driver and severely injuring the passengers, has been arrested on charges including second-degree murder and vehicular manslaughter.

Alejandro Aurelio Arias, 28, of Nice was arrested Wednesday without incident at his mother's home by District Attorney's Office investigators, two days after Deputy District Attorney John Langan filed a criminal case against him in Lake County Superior Court.

Last Sept. 11, Arias – driving a Ford Mustang he had modified for racing – hit and killed 41-year-old Charlane Hill of Laytonville, as Lake County News has reported.

The collision also seriously injured Hill's passengers, Clearlake resident Maria Holt and Hill's young niece, Elizabeth Hill of Ukiah, who both were hospitalized.

In addition to the second-degree murder and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence charges, Arias – who has had numerous vehicle-related criminal cases filed against him over the last decade – faces three counts of reckless driving, according to court records. His bail has been set at $500,000.

California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Domby, who works for the CHP's Clear Lake office, was at the scene. Recalling the incident on Wednesday, he called it a “very violent, horrific crash.”

Members of Hill's family chose not to comment when contacted Wednesday.

Arias originally was arrested at the scene of the crash in September for driving under the influence and gross vehicular manslaughter and then was transported to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for treatment of major injuries to his head, pelvis and legs.

“The fact that he survived it is amazing,” Domby said.

Since the crash, the District Attorney's Office has been investigating the case, which it filed March 29, Langan said.

About 10 minutes prior to the crash, Arias had been pulled over by a sheriff's deputy near Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino in Nice, Langan said.

The deputy, according to Langan, had reportedly spotted Arias “peeling out” as he left the casino, and stopped him to issue a warning. The deputy would later arrive at the crash scene and report that he had warned Arias.

Just prior to the crash – which occurred at approximately 9:42 p.m. – several witnesses reported seeing Arias driving along Highway 29 at high speeds, said Domby.

One of the witnesses was a Lakeport Police officer who saw Arias go by. Domby said Arias' vehicle was recorded by the Lakeport officer's mobile audio video unit.

“We believe he was doing about 100 miles per hour southbound on Highway 29,” Langan added.

Langan said Arias is then alleged to have run the red light at Highway 29 and Highway 175 outside of Lakeport before crossing the double yellow lines and hitting Hill's Buick Regal head-on south of the intersection.

“It's a miracle he didn't hit anyone in the intersection,” said Domby.

Hill was declared dead at the scene, according to Langan.

Domby said Arias' Mustang had several modifications, including a nitrous oxide system that wasn't hooked up, heavy duty brakes that Arias told officers he had put on the car, a super charger to increase the horse power and a fin on the back of the car.

Arias reportedly had raced the car in Oregon, Domby said. “The car was capable of doing very high speeds.”

Domby said the CHP's Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT), was called in. It conducted lengthy, in-depth analysis of the incident, including examining skid marks and other physical evidence.

That's where the MAIT Team really shines, is doing their calculations on the physical evidence that's left and the metal crush from the vehicles,” said Domby.

In filing the case, Langan said several factors came into play in deciding to charge Arias with second-degree murder.

One of those factors was Arias' driving history, said Langan.

Arias has an extensive past history of criminal cases involving speeding, driving without a license and failure to provide insurance.

Superior court records show 18 previous driving-related cases – going back as far as 2000 – filed against Arias.

He was convicted and sentenced in 10 of those cases:

  • May 20, 2003: Sentenced to fines for failing to display current registration tabs and having no driver's license in his possession;

  • June 20, 2003: Sentenced to fines for exceeding the maximum speed of 55 miles per hour;

  • Jan. 6, 2005: Sentenced to fines for exceeding the maximum speed of 55 miles per hour and failing to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of an address change;

  • Jan. 14, 2005: Sentenced to fines for improperly turning over double-yellow lines;

  • June 16, 2006: Sentenced to 10 days in jail and fines for driving on a suspended or revoked license;

  • June 16, 2006: Sentenced to three years probation for failure to provide insurance;

  • Dec. 18, 2008: Sentenced to fines for driving while unlicensed;

  • Dec. 18, 2008: Sentenced to fines for failure to provide insurance;

  • Dec. 18, 2008: Sentenced to fines for exceeding the maximum speed of 55 miles per hour.

In August of 2009, a month before the fatal crash, Arias was sentenced in his 10th case, again receiving fines for speeding, according to court records.

Langan is alleging that Arias personally knew of the dangers inherent in his actions.

“With that history and knowledge, we believe it elevates it from manslaughter to second-degree murder,” he said, adding that Arias displayed “reckless indifference.”

Domby called the murder charge filing “significant,” noting he's not seen such a charge made in Lake County before based on someone's driving history. But, he added, it has been done elsewhere, although it's still relatively rare.

Mostly, he said, he's seen such charges arise from driving under the influence cases.

Still under investigation, said Langan, is whether or not Arias was in fact under the influence of any substance, as was alleged in his original arrest.

California Highway Patrol reported initially that Arias showed “signs and symptoms” of intoxication at the scene.

A blood test was conducted at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital when Arias arrived for treatment, but Domby said the results couldn't be disclosed at this time.

Arias' arrest record indicates he is due in Lake County Superior Court for his first appearance on the charges on Friday.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

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