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Man held in fatal crash may face murder charge

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Posted: Friday, May 16, 2008 10:00 pm

A man accused of driving drunk after he killed a Lodi woman in an accident Wednesday could face a murder charge because he had drunken driving conviction from June.

Additionally, 21-year-old Luis Hernandez, of Stockton, has two pending cases for driving under the influence since February, the most recent one less than two weeks before Wednesday's fatal crash. All told, he has now been charged in four separate DUI cases in the last year.

Hernandez was driving west on Tokay Colony Road around 8:45 that night when he reached a driveway where Violet Mae Hill had stopped to check her mail.

Hill, 76, usually stayed in her car while her husband, Lou Hill, checked the mail, their normal routine, according to neighbors. But Lou Hill had just suffered a heart attack and had quadruple bypass heart surgery, neighbor Tim Maloney said Friday.

Lou Hill was staying with his daughter in Stockton, closer to the hospital where he was being treated, and didn't learn of his wife's death until Thursday, Maloney said.

Maloney was one of the first people on scene after Hernandez's car struck Hill's Buick, which then struck her, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The Hills regularly took cookies, vegetables and other food to their neighbors, and Maloney found himself trying to return the favor Friday by cleaning up the glass and car parts scattered in front of the Hills' home.

"They were just neat people; whatever they made, they would share it," he said.

The crash, which witness Gabe Watts described as "boom, skid, boom, skid," brought neighbors running to the scene.

Hernandez, who had minor injuries, was taken to a hospital and then booked into the San Joaquin County Jail.

Wearing orange jail clothing, he made his first court appearance Friday.

Court records show that Hernandez was convicted of driving under the influence in June 2007 in Amador County.

He was charged with another DUI on Feb. 26 in San Joaquin County, and given a March 17 court date. He didn't appear in court and a judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

Law enforcement caught up to Hernandez on May 1, when he was again arrested for driving under the influence. He was booked into jail on both DUI charges.

But on May 5, Hernandez was released from the jail, which regularly turns inmates loose due to overcrowding. Nine days later, his path crossed Hill's.

Because of his DUI conviction last summer, Hernandez could face a second-degree murder charge because of a 2004 law regarding repeat offenders.

Since January 2005, everyone convicted of driving under the influence in California is advised of the law, and must initial a paper that explains the consequences.

Hernandez is currently charged with gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol. With the assistance of a Spanish language interpreter, he pleaded not guilty Friday to those charges. He will return to court June 5.

Judge David Warner set bail at $100,000, saying that he hoped the jail would not release Hernandez.

Deputy District Attorney Pat Rieta-Garcia only learned of Hernandez's previous DUI conviction Friday morning. She said her office will decide whether to increase charges to murder once they receive a copy of the Amador County file.

A second-degree murder charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years to life in prison.

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • posted at 7:35 am on Wed, May 21, 2008.


    AKM.. You hit the nail on the head.. You can take their license, their freedom, their families... Most will still drink and drive again..Addiction will win in the end...

  • posted at 7:42 am on Mon, May 19, 2008.


    Wow, Cogito, you brought back a great memory.I loved that movie "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean"... Paul Newman... What a classic.Yeap, I can imagine Leonard with that Paul Newman swagger.

  • posted at 4:16 pm on Sun, May 18, 2008.


    I want Leonard to be a judge! The reincarnation of Roy Bean. He's got my vote.

  • posted at 2:22 pm on Sun, May 18, 2008.


    cogito gets a "puppy smooch"??? Oth, you have a sweet side. I love it.

  • posted at 5:31 am on Sun, May 18, 2008.


    Cogito You get a puppy smooch for your bravery. Don't ask me what that is but we will figure out something.

  • posted at 4:38 am on Sun, May 18, 2008.


    This pig should be given a lawyer, a fair trial, and, once he has been found guilty, he should be put up against a wall and shot.

  • posted at 3:12 am on Sun, May 18, 2008.


    We are so sick of these people racing on Tokay Colony Rd, the drinking and the loud music that they play. My feelings are that this guy was at neighbos house on this street, and they allowed him to leave drunk. Tokay Colony Rd use to be a wonderful street where everyone knew their neighbors and helped their friends and neighbors out. We aren't going to put up with the noise and rude people any more. Think that the sheriff will be hearing more from all the neighbors of this street.

  • posted at 6:37 pm on Sat, May 17, 2008.


    Cogito: Wow! Thank God you were there to watch that drunk guy. He could have killed any one of us. On behalf of myself and all of my loved ones on the road, thank you for reporting him. We've got to get these drunks off the road. What is going on? Stricter laws and enforcement are in order! Why are we so lax on these criminals?

  • posted at 5:29 pm on Sat, May 17, 2008.


    I called 911 on a drunk driver I was following about a month ago. The guy was taking up the whole road, his right side tires were actually going over the middle of the road. Oncoming traffic was taking evasive action. I followed him to where he finally parked, smashing into the rear of the car parked in front of him. I had to take the morning off a few weeks later to drive to Sacramento and talk to an attorney with the DAs office about the case. I will probably have to take more time off for the trial due to his professed innocence. Until today, I had wished I'd just let him go. Now I know I did the right thing. I'm just glad this guy didn't hurt anyone.

  • posted at 4:16 pm on Sat, May 17, 2008.


    ajgriffith....My thoughts and prayers are with you at this time. At the same time I hope this young man gets everything the law can give him. He has it coming.

  • posted at 3:58 pm on Sat, May 17, 2008.


    Vi Hill was a member of my family... and I wish to state that I truly appreciate all of your support and insight... It is hard to know that a repeat offender may get off with manslaughter instead of murder, when in reality thats just what he did. He murdered a beautiful and loving woman. Illegal or not, spanish speaking or not, the fact is that this (young) man continued to make the same stupid mistake and I just hope that he is made to pay FULL PRICE for what he did and the people he has hurt. Again, thank you all for your support and opinions during this difficult time... it is greatly appreciated.RIP Vi... We all love and miss you dearly...

  • posted at 2:14 pm on Sat, May 17, 2008.


    Papercut....I wonder how it is that you know that all the people leaving the ZINFEST last night were driving drunk? Is another possibility that these people are RESPONSIBLE drinkers and had designated drivers? The Police Department turned their heads?? To do what ....allow drunk drivers to go out and kill members of our families? Your assumptions are absured. Just for info...there was transportation provided to and from parking lots surrounding the city. Stop acusing people of wrong doing without stating fact! The person that killed an individual in the collision should pay for the rest of his natural born life.

  • posted at 9:23 am on Sat, May 17, 2008.


    Don't go getting off too bad on this guy when your own police department lets a park full of drunks leave the wine festival at Lodi Lake last night, tonight and tomorrow afternoon while just turning their heads the other way. Anyone of you who leave there with two or more glasses of wine under your belt would've been guilty of DUI had you been stopped. It's events like thes that say it's OK to drink and drive as long as you don't get caught or if you're connected enough to get a ride home in the squad car. Three glasses of wine on a hot day like this and a normal person is stewed and not able to drive. Lodi needs to be more selective and offer public transportation at events like these.

  • posted at 8:04 am on Sat, May 17, 2008.


    SamHe wasn't out on bail they cut him loose because the jail was over crowded. This happens on almost a daily basis.We need a new jail badly but until then this will continue. Sad but true.

  • posted at 4:23 am on Sat, May 17, 2008.


    My heart goes out to this family. Not only do they learn their mother is dead but she was killed by a multiple offender turned loose recently. When are they going to learn that a multiple offender drunk driver is just as dangerous as any murderer.What do we need to do as a society to stop this from happening again?

  • posted at 3:48 am on Sat, May 17, 2008.


    Spanish interpreter = illegal Alien?If so, had he been sent home after the first DUI, this lady would still be alive. Is Lodi a sanctuary city, now?

  • posted at 2:49 am on Sat, May 17, 2008.


    In 1974, the drunk driver who hit me head on going 80 went up the off ramp of I-5 going northbound on the southbound side. He drove 22 miles the wrong way before hitting me head on going 80! He was under 21, no job, no license and he died. So often it is the victim who dies, not the driver. At least the driver in my case couldn't hurt anyone else. But I have been disabled since 1974. Drunk drivers don't learn anything but where the next bottle is bought from!

  • posted at 2:17 am on Sat, May 17, 2008.


    Obviously some people just don't learn from there mistakes.

  • posted at 2:14 am on Sat, May 17, 2008.


    Wait, this man clearly murdered this woman. Why is bail so low? What is up Warner??

  • posted at 1:56 am on Sat, May 17, 2008.


    That blows my mind! Why waste time arresting these guys...it obviously doesn't even matter!

  • posted at 1:38 am on Sat, May 17, 2008.





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