LAS VEGAS -- A California juvenile detention escapee had a blood-alcohol percentage of 0.12 – well above the Nevada legal limit of 0.08 percent – after a freeway crash that killed five Southern California family members and injured two others, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Jean Ervin Soriano, 18, was charged Wednesday with seven felony charges of driving under the influence causing death or substantial injury in the early March 30 wreck on Interstate 15 about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
He also faces two misdemeanor charges of failure to decrease speed and driving without a license.
Moapa Justice of the Peace Ruth Kolhoss scheduled a May 15 evidence hearing.
Soriano wasn't asked to enter a plea, but his attorney, Frank Cofer, said his client plans to plead not guilty when the time comes.
"He's a young kid, very scared, distraught," Cofer said following the brief court appearance with Soriano, who was shackled for a 60-mile trip in a jail van from Las Vegas to a rural courtroom 60 miles away.
Soriano, who previously told the judge he used to live in California but moved to St. George, Utah, is being held on $3.5 million bail in isolated protective custody at the Clark County jail. Cofer said he has been praying for the family members killed and injured.
The attorney asked the judge on Wednesday to order the preservation as evidence of the SUV involved in the crash so that defense investigators can collect blood and tissue samples to determine if Soriano was actually driving.
Cofer said he also plans to order independent blood-alcohol tests on samples drawn from Soriano after the crash.
The Nevada Highway Patrol said Soriano and a 23-year-old passenger in a Dodge Durango were hurt when their vehicle rear-ended a Chevrolet van carrying a trio of brothers and four other family members back to the Los Angeles area for Easter after visiting a sick relative in Denver.
Troopers said Soriano later admitted that he was driving. Investigators found several beer bottles in the vehicle, troopers said.
The van overturned in the desert, killing Genaro Fernandez, 41, of Norwalk; Raudel Fernandez-Avila, 49, and Belen Fernandez, 53, both of Lynwood; and Angela Sandoval, 13, and Leonardo Fernandez-Avila, 45, both of Los Angeles.
The driver of the van, Maria Rosario Cardanas, 40, and a 15-year-old passenger, Eddie Sandoval, were the only survivors.
After Soriano's arrest, authorities in Orange County, Calif., said that he fled March 1 from a juvenile guidance center in Santa Ana that treats drug and alcohol abusers.
Find Ken Ritter on Twitter: http://twitter.com/krttr