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Update: Man sentenced for murder, gross vehicular manslaughter 

Update posted March  15: 

Man convicted of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter

Earnesto Nava Herrera, 27.

– On Jan. 30, 2023, a San Luis Obispo County jury found Earnesto Nava Herrera guilty on all charged counts, which included second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit and run causing death, driving under the influence of alcohol causing great bodily injury, and driving on a suspended license.

Herrera also pleaded no contest to possession of child pornography that was discovered on his phone during the homicide investigation.

During the nearly three-week trial jurors heard evidence that on the evening of March 27, 2021, Herrera, while driving heavily intoxicated, collided with 70 feet of metal pipe fencing and knocked over a tree.

He fled in his vehicle and entered Highway 101 using the Tefft Street off-ramp in Nipomo. While driving in the wrong direction on the off-ramp, Herrera nearly collided with a vehicle that was exiting the freeway. The vehicle was able to swerve to avoid a head-on collision.

Herrera continued to accelerate northbound on 101 against traffic when he crashed into the victim’s vehicle head on. The collision killed 14-year-old “J” and seriously injured two others in the victim’s vehicle.

Herrera fled on foot as his vehicle was disabled. About an hour after the deadly crash, California Highway Patrol located Herrera, by using a helicopter with FLIR (forward facing infrared) technology. He was crawling near the freeway in an apparent attempt to avoid detection. Herrera had a blood alcohol level of .164, nearly 2 ½ hours after the deadly crash.

On Dec. 31, 2020, just three months before the fatal collision, Herrera was arrested for DUI and was read the following admonition: “Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous to human life to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. If you continue to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, and as a result of that driving, someone is killed, you can be charged with murder.”

At the sentencing hearing the 14-year-old victim’s biological mother provided the following statement describing her son:

“My son…”J”, was an only child, a miracle boy, and he had many dreams and aspirations. He was a very ambitious 14-year-old, enjoyed soccer, and was an avid reader. He loved to travel and had been to Japan, Mexico, Costa Rica, and many states in the US, and he loved Disneyland. He was a pleasure to be around, and he was loved by many. He loved math, physics, and science. He was a 4.0 student and was en route to be valedictorian of his class. He aspired to be an engineer and hoped someday to be a Nobel prize winner. He loved sea otters, and he had a best friend, Oddy. He looked forward to Summer Christian Camp, and spending time with his cousins. He also enjoyed summer school math enrichment, and spending time with his friends. “J” will be missed every day and remembered forever.”

“This is a terrible, yet completely avoidable tragedy,” said Assistant District Attorney Eric Dobroth. “As this incident so heartbreakingly illustrates, driving while impaired puts every life on the roadway in peril. We will aggressively prosecute drunk or drugged drivers in our community and will charge murder when appropriate. We are hopeful that completion of the criminal case will provide family and friends the space necessary to begin healing.”

The public is reminded to report suspected impaired drivers by calling 911.

The case was investigated by the California Highway Patrol, with the assistance of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation, and was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Melissa Chabra.

 


Original story posted Feb. 3:

Man convicted of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow announced today that a San Luis Obispo County jury has convicted Earnesto Nava Herrera, 27, of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit and run causing death, driving while under the influence of alcohol causing great bodily injury, and driving on a suspended license.

The jury found Herrera guilty on all charged counts, which included second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit and run causing death, driving under the influence of alcohol causing great bodily injury, and driving on a suspended license.

During the nearly three-week trial jurors heard evidence that on the evening of March 27, 2021, Herrera, while driving heavily intoxicated, collided with 70 feet of metal pipe fencing and knocked over a tree. He fled in his vehicle and entered Highway 101 using the Tefft Street off-ramp in Nipomo. While driving in the wrong direction on the off-ramp, Herrera nearly collided with a vehicle that was exiting the freeway. The vehicle was able to swerve to avoid a head-on collision. Herrera continued to accelerate northbound on 101 against traffic when he crashed into the victim’s vehicle head-on. The collision killed a 14-year-old and seriously injured two others in the victim’s vehicle.

Herrera fled on foot as his vehicle was disabled. About an hour after the deadly crash, California Highway Patrol located Herrera, by using a helicopter with FLIR (forward facing infrared) technology. He was crawling near the freeway in an apparent attempt to avoid detection. Herrera had a blood alcohol level of .164, nearly 2 ½ hours after the deadly crash.

On Dec. 31, 2020, just three months before the fatal collision, Herrera was arrested for DUI and was read the following admonition: “Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous to human life to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. If you continue to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, and as a result of that driving, someone is killed, you can be charged with murder.”

“This is a terrible, yet completely avoidable tragedy,” said Assistant District Attorney Eric Dobroth. “As this incident so heartbreakingly illustrates, driving while impaired puts every life on the roadway in peril. We are committed to the aggressive prosecution of those driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in our community and will charge murder when appropriate. We thank the jury for their focused attention and recognize the psychological impact of serving on a case as tragic as this.”

The DA’s office reminds the public to report suspected impaired drivers by calling 911. “If you find yourself in a position where you have been drinking or have ingested drugs (legal or otherwise) and suspect that you may be impaired, please do not drive; call a friend or a ride service, or simply stay put until you sober up,” said the DA’s office, “If you see someone about to drive while impaired, please act.”

Herrera faces life in prison at his sentencing scheduled for March 5, 2024, in Dept. 6 of the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, the Honorable Michael S. Frye presiding.

The case was investigated by the California Highway Patrol, with the assistance of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation, and was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Melissa Chabra.

 

 

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The news staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote or edited this story from local contributors and press releases. The news staff can be reached at info@pasoroblesdailynews.com.