PALMDALE – The man who plowed his vehicle through a Palmdale apartment and fatally struck a teenage girl as she slept on Easter Sunday 2014 must stand trial for murder, a judge ruled after day two of a preliminary hearing.
Roberto Rodriguez was held to answer to one count each of driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage and causing injury, driving with a .08% blood alcohol content and causing injury, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and murder in connection with the April 20 crash that killed 16-year-old Giselle Mendoza.
The decision came Tuesday afternoon after the judge heard recorded interviews detectives conducted with Rodriguez on the day of the fatal crash.
The first recorded interview, which detectives said was conducted a little over an hour after the crash, showed Rodriguez with blood splattered on his face and t-shirt. He said he was drinking with a buddy and was trying to drive home when he fell asleep at the wheel.
“I just remember crashing through the wall… then some guy going crazy on me… saying I killed someone, hitting me repeatedly,” Rodriguez said during the recorded interview.
Rodriguez told detectives he did not want to press charges against the assailant, and he apologized.
“It wasn’t my intention to drive, I just wanted to get home,” Rodriguez said.
In the second recorded interview, which detectives said was conducted about 10 hours after the crash, a cleaned-up Rodriguez is shown with what appears to be a blackened right eye and a cut on the bridge of his nose. When asked, Rodriguez gives details about his activities leading up to the fatal crash.
Rodriguez said he worked a shift at Little Caesars Pizza on April 19, 2014, and then he went home, changed his clothes, and drove his mother’s Nissan Pathfinder to a get-together at a friend’s house on Avenue R-8 and 35th Street East. While there, Rodriguez played beer pong on an empty stomach until the early morning hours, consuming six to seven cans of Bud Light, according to his statements during the recorded interview.
He said he sat in his vehicle for about 10 minutes to try to sober up before driving home. Rodriguez said he was intoxicated, and he remembers “going fast” on the drive home.
“I just remember driving to [Avenue] S, then that’s it. It’s a blur,” Rodriguez said.
“I closed my eyes and next thing you know just crashed,” Rodriguez said later in the interview.
Asked if he could function while intoxicated, Rodriguez said: “Normally, yes. I guess not, if this happened.”
During the recorded interview, the then 20-year-old Rodriguez also told detectives that he had been drinking alcohol for about two years, usually at parties. He said he smoked marijuana occasionally, and he had tried LSD “once or twice” years ago.
The preliminary hearing Tuesday also included testimony from Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy Eduardo Alatorre, who said Rodriguez’s vehicle jumped a raised curb and went through a fence before crashing through the structural wall of the apartment complex. Nissan technical specialist Timothy Zingerman testified about downloading technical data from the Nissan Pathfinder, which showed that the vehicle was traveling 105 mph five seconds before its airbags deployed.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy Robert Hawkins and detectives Aaron Percy and John Heald also gave testimony during day two of the preliminary hearing.
If convicted as charged Rodriguez faces a maximum possible sentence of 15-years-to-life in state prison.
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