The Coast News Group

Jury deadlocks on murder, manslaughter charges in crash that killed Escondido Lyft driver

A jury deadlocked April 20 on murder and manslaughter charges against a motorist who was drunk when he fatally struck a Lyft driver tending to a sick passenger on the freeway shoulder of state Route 94, but the panel found the defendant guilty of DUI causing injury, hit-and-run and driving on a suspended license.

Jurors told Judge Kenneth So they were deadlocked 6-6 on a second-degree murder charge and 10-2 for guilt on a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter against 25-year-old Steven Cervantes Quintero, who has a prior DUI conviction from November 2015.

A status conference is scheduled May 4 to determine what’s next in the case. Quintero’s attorney told the judge she will ask the court to dismiss the deadlocked counts.

A passenger in the Lyft car, Kelly Hoffman, testified at a hearing last year that she and two friends were dropped off about 11 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2016, and had drinks at a couple of downtown San Diego nightclubs before stopping for some gelato.

As they headed home about 1 a.m. in the Lyft car driven by 41-year-old Henry O. Reyes of Escondido, passenger Sarah Smith got sick and Reyes pulled onto the shoulder of the eastbound freeway near 28th Street to get her out of the car and give her some water, Hoffman testified.

Minutes later, the Lyft car was hit from behind and Reyes — an aspiring dentist and the father of a 2-year-old child — was killed as he walked around the car to get back in.

Hoffman, who was on the phone in the backseat when the collision occurred, said she “was hit so hard I didn’t know where I was” and suffered a broken bone on the top of her foot, whiplash of the neck and a concussion.

Smith, who had cuts to her chin, a neck injury and a bruised spine, said she has no memory of the crash.

According to court testimony, Quintero was entering the freeway at 25th Street when he slammed into the back of Reyes’ Kia.

Quintero walked away from the collision but was arrested nearby a short time later. A female passenger in his car suffered a broken wrist.

The defendant’s blood-alcohol content was between 0.14 and 0.16 percent at the time of the accident, according to court testimony.

— City News Service