Driver charged with murder in hit-and-run

An Oakland man was charged with two counts of murder today in connection with a Thanksgiving night hit-and-run accident that left two people dead and two others critically injured, according to Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Norbert Chu.

Carmelo Salas, 28, who allegedly fled the scene of the crash at 89th Avenue and D Street about 7:20 p.m. Thursday but was arrested about four hours later, is expected to be arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court on Tuesday.

Salas is accused of murder for the deaths of Jacqueline Munguia, 5, and her aunt, Stephanie Cervantes, 14.

Salas is also charged with two counts of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury for injuries sustained by Jacqueline's mother, 23-year-old Laura Herrera, and Herrera's daughter, 3-year-old Evalyn Munguia.

Both were hospitalized after the accident and are still in critical condition.

The family members were on their way to a Thanksgiving dinner when their car was struck.

In addition, prosecutors charged Salas with kidnapping for allegedly forcing his 17-year-old nephew to ride along with him in a Ford Expedition sports utility vehicle shortly before it crashed into the Ford Mustang driven by Herrera.

Chu said he didn't charge Salas with driving while intoxicated because he wasn't arrested until about four hours after the fatal accident and wasn't tested until nearly eight hours afterward.

By that time, Salas' blood alcohol level was only 0.014, well below the limit where a person is considered too intoxicated to drive.

Salas could face a prison sentence of at least 30 years to life if he's convicted of two counts of second-degree murder plus the other counts in the case.

Chu said Salas' nephew gave a statement to Oakland police that provided the basis for filing murder charges against Salas.

The prosecutor said the nephew told police he didn't want to go with Salas because Salas “can be volatile and crazy.”

Chu said that when the nephew tried to put on his seatbelt, Salas stopped him and said, “If I die, you will too.”

Chu said the nephew warned Salas about the approaching Mustang, but Salas continued speeding.

Salas was driving at an estimated 80 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone and ran two stop signs, according to Chu.

The prosecutor said there aren't any skid marks at the accident scene, which indicates that Salas didn't make any effort to avoid the other car.

Chu said he believes Salas engaged in “a deliberate act with subjective awareness” of what would happen.

He said he believes Salas' actions were implied malice, which is a key element of murder, because he engaged in an inherently dangerous activity by running two stop signs and was aware that he would hit another vehicle.

Chu said the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has placed a deportation hold on Salas because he's in the U.S. illegally from Mexico. Salas also is on probation for a misdemeanor battery conviction in 2006.

Bay City News

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