LANCASTER – A 25-year-old Lancaster man accused of driving drunk, crashing his pickup truck into a home and crushing an elderly lady sleeping in her bed must stand trial for murder.
Following a preliminary court hearing Wednesday, Aaron Daniel Benson was ordered to stand trial on all charges in connection with the March 29 death of 71-year-old Patricia Ann Holmes, according to Ricardo Santiago of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Benson is charged with murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury within 10 years of another DUI offense and driving with a 0.08% blood alcohol content causing injury within 10 years of another DUI offense.
Benson allegedly crashed his Toyota Tundra pickup truck into several parked cars on both sides of the street as he drove westbound on Avenue J-12 before slamming into the elderly woman’s home, around 10:55 p.m. Sunday, March 29, according to authorities.
At the preliminary court hearing Wednesday, the victim’s neighbor, Santino Arrigoni, gave testimony on how he responded to the explosive incident – just a few houses down from his own.
“I saw smoke coming out … and I saw the truck inside the home,” Arrigoni testified. “I saw the defendant get out. He was panicking, he kept saying, ‘Oh my God, oh my God – what did I do?'”
Arrigoni testified that Patricia Holmes was later located beneath the truck on the passenger side.
The district attorney’s office introduced several documents into evidence, demonstrating not only Benson’s blood alcohol level at the time of the incident, but his prior October 2011 DUI conviction, as well.
Benson’s defense attorney, Manuel Medrano, made a motion to dismiss the charges on “factual grounds,” arguing that Benson had suffered a head injury following the March 29 crash. Medrano said his client “was not fully lucid, which, in my opinion, is the reason he did not pass the sobriety test.”
Deputy District Attorney Sun Chung argued there was sufficient evidence to support charges of second-degree murder and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, especially because Benson was aware of the “extreme hazards” of driving intoxicated following his 2011 DUI conviction.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Christopher Estes read the evidence submitted by the district attorney, noting both the defendant’s blood alcohol level, which was over 0.08 percent, and signed statements from Benson’s prior DUI conviction certifying his awareness of the hazards to the public and himself if he should drive while intoxicated.
Judge Estes denied the motion to dismiss and held Benson to answer on all charges. He is due back in court June 23 for a second arraignment.
If convicted as charged, Benson faces a possible maximum sentence of 15 years to life in state prison. He continues to be held on bail at $1 million.
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