A 23-year-old Lancaster man has been charged with murder for causing a fiery crash last month that killed a Palmdale man.
Jeffrey Cole Brooks was charged in connection with the Sept. 27 crash that claimed the life of 21-year-old Daniel Orellana Jr., according to court records.
Brooks appeared in an Antelope Valley courtroom Thursday for a scheduled arraignment, but he did not enter a plea and the arraignment was postponed to next week, court records show.
The murder charge stems from a fatal crash that occurred just before 4 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 27 on Avenue S at Sierra Highway.
Brooks was driving a Mitsubishi Lancer eastbound on Avenue S when he crashed into the back of Orellana’s Mitsubishi Eclipse, according to Sheriff’s officials. Witnesses said the Eclipse was stopped at a traffic signal when it was rear-ended by the speeding Lancer. The Eclipse then burst into flames, and Orellana was pronounced dead at the scene.
“This young man died a tragic death… he burned alive,” said community activist Miguel Coronado.
Coronado joined Orellana’s grieving family members outside the Antelope Valley courthouse Thursday morning following Brooks’ court appearance. Nearly two dozen family members attended the brief court hearing, many of them wearing t-shirts with Orellana’s picture on the front.
“Just the way that Danielito passed away was just horrendous and just so bad that the family just wants justice,” said close family friend Paula Tuchan. “[Daniel] was just coming home from work… he never did anything wrong for him to die such a tragic death.”
“I need justice to be served,” Daniel Orellana Sr. said in Spanish. Family members said Daniel’s mother has been ill since her son’s passing. They said she fainted in the courthouse Thursday.
“It’s just horrible. The whole family is shaken and very upset,” Tuchan said.
Brooks, who had been free on $100,000 bail since the day after the crash, was taken into custody at his court appearance Thursday. His bail was increased to $1 million. Brooks is due back in court Nov. 5 for arraignment and plea, according to court records.
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