FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --The man accused of speeding down Cedar and Floradora and slamming into an elderly man in a wheelchair, will stand trial for gross negligent vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run. The judge determined there is enough probable cause to hold Edgar Rueda to answer.
Rueda has bailed out of jail for now, but could face up to 11 years in prison for the hit and run crash that killed an 83-year-old veteran last July.
Tuesday, a woman who was driving next to the defendant's white truck said she believed Rueda was racing another car just before he approached a man in a wheelchair who was wearing an orange vest.
"As soon as those tires spun, and the smoke came out, and I know he tried to avoid the man, but it was too late. He hit him and the poor man flew," said the witness.
Fresno Police Traffic Detective Brian Hance was the first to talk with the suspect several days after the crash, after tips from the public led police to Rueda's house. Officers said the suspect was hiding in a locked bathroom but was later arrested. He immediately told detective Hance two things.
"He tried to stop, and that he was scared," said Hance.
Jose Rodriguez's broken wheelchair was scattered all over the road. The elderly man died after investigators estimate he was thrown about 83 feet. Extensive skid marks were documented by officers. Traffic collision reconstruction experts calculated Rueda's speed before he slammed on his brakes was nearly 25 miles over the speed limit.
Rueda denied racing, and said he was on his way to work before the crash.
"Basically, he told me he was northbound on Cedar Avenue and he was trying to get into the right lane, which would have been the number two lane, and there was another vehicle there and the other vehicle wouldn't let him over. So he sped up to get in front of that vehicle, so he sped up also," said Hance.
The judge ruled there is enough evidence for trial, he reminded Rueda of statements made during the police interview that show he clearly saw the victim before the crash.
"He was hoping, just hoping, that the person would not cross in front of him. Accelerated to get to the left, or to get to change lanes, saw the man, hoped he would not cross and then crossed in front of him. So to be traveling at that speed and see somebody who has the potential of crossing the roadway, and instead of stopping, you are relying on hope, I think there's standard probable cause," said Hon. Jonathan Conklin, Fresno County Superior Court.
After admitting to the crime, Rueda also agreed to write a letter to the victim's family. The letter was submitted to the court as evidence.
This is not the first time the defendant has faced a judge, three weeks before the fatal hit and run crash Rueda convicted of reckless driving.