PALMDALE – A preliminary hearing began Friday to determine if a 21-year-old Palmdale man will stand trial for crashing his vehicle through an apartment and allegedly killing a teenage girl as she slept on Easter Sunday 2014.
Roberto Rodríguez is charged with driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage causing injury, driving with a .08% blood alcohol content causing injury, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and murder in connection with the April 20 death of 16-year-old Giselle Mendoza.
At Friday’s court hearing, two officers testified about the events that occurred during the early morning hours of April 20, 2014 and the investigation that followed.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy John Gaudino testified that he was patrolling the vicinity of 10th Street East and Avenue R when he noticed a sport utility vehicle crashed through the south side of an apartment complex at 1005 East Avenue R in Palmdale. Gaudino said he forced open the vehicle’s door to check on its driver, and he observed that the driver had watery eyes, slurred speech and smelled of alcohol.
“He told me he was fine,” Gaudino testified. After detaining the driver in the back seat of a patrol car, Gaudino said he spoke to witnesses who were gathered on the sidewalk. A man said his stepdaughter was sleeping inside the room where the vehicle crashed, and the man feared his stepdaughter was trapped underneath the vehicle, Gaudino testified.
The deputy said he couldn’t see anyone under the vehicle, so he climbed over the roof of the Nissan Pathfinder to continue his search. He and other responding deputies began clearing away debris from around the vehicle, and that’s when they located the teen, Gaudino testified.
“She was in between the vehicle and the wall,” Gaudino said.
Another responding deputy, Matthew Davis, testified Friday about transporting Rodriguez to Palmdale Regional Medical Center for a blood test and medical evaluation.
Rodriguez admitted to drinking four to six beers at a friend’s house before the crash, and he said he started drinking around 11 p.m. April 19 and stopped drinking around 3:30 a.m. April 20, Davis testified. Davis also testified that Rodriguez failed a series of field sobriety tests and took two breathalyzer tests, which showed readings of .156 and .143.
The hearing was continued until Tuesday, Jan. 27, when more witnesses are expected to be called. At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, a judge will determine whether there is enough evidence to take the case to trial.
Rodriguez remains jailed with bail set at $1,030,000. If convicted as charged on all counts, he faces a maximum possible sentence of 15-years-to-life in state prison.
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