Suspect in Triple Fatal Crash on Bail from Ventura County

August 21, 2009 7:03:49 PM PDT
The CHP said Justin Rice is out on bail from the Ventura County jail charged with child endangerment and assault with a deadly weapon. Now, he's in the Madera County jail facing six more felony charges that could put him in prison for the rest of his life. Highway Patrol spokesman Matt Radke described his driving before the crash as, "Erratic, reckless, selfish. It all comes under the fact that he was DUI."The CHP received calls that Rice was weaving in traffic and running cars off a two lane section of Highway 41 in Madera County Thursday. Radke said, "Unfortunately the one vehicle that didn't see was struck by the DUI driver."

The officer on the scene said the 32 year old was so high on marijuana and possibly meth he had no idea he had been in an accident. He also said that Rice heard an explosion but didn't know he had slammed head-on into a car with 5 women carpooling to work at Chukchansi Casino.

36 year old Maria Flores-Rodriguez, 38 year old Elena Mendoza and 39 year old Estela Frias died instantly. The 2 others survived and have been released from the hospital. Radke said, "We do know that he was not remorseful, he did not show any remorse for these 3 people that he killed."

The casino's general manager released this statement: "Our deepest condolences are extended to our fellow Chukchansi team members who tragically lost their lives in the accident. Our hearts go out to their family and friends." The American flag that sits outside the casino was lowered in honor of the employees.

Radke said, "He suffered hardly any injuries, killed 3 innocent people going to work making a living and becomes combative with the officers."

Investigators were told Rice had been visiting a relative in Yosemite and was heading back to Ventura County where he has a long criminal record and at least 5 aliases.

Rice's criminal record is so extensive and he has admitted been in so many car accidents the CHP said the Madera County District Attorney may pursue 3 charges of second degree murder instead of vehicular homicide. He's also facing 1 count of felony DUI, 1 count of being under the influence of a controlled substance, and 1 count of resisting arrest.

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