A San Diego man accused of driving under the influence and causing a chain-reaction crash on Interstate 15 that killed two people and injured two others was charged with murder Friday.
Jeffrey Levi, 37, was arraigned on several counts in connection with the deadly crash including two counts of murder, two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter, DUI and hit-and-run. Levi pleaded not guilty, while a judge ordered he be held on a bail of $2 million.
On Wednesday, just after midnight, the California Highway Patrol said Levi was driving northbound on I-15 at Miramar Road at 100 mph when he rear-ended a Toyota carrying siblings Jesus David Dominguez, 33, and Jiovanna Dominguez, 18, and Jiovanna Dominguez’s boyfriend, Isaac Felix, 19.
The Toyota, unable to move, stayed in the middle of the lanes on the freeway. Soon, an off-duty San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officer on his way home from work in an unmarked SUV, crashed into the Toyota. The elapsed time between the two collisions is still under investigation.
The Toyota began to smoke and several Good Samaritans pulled over to help the victims inside. Good Samaritans Jose Aguilera and Todd Holdren, among others, were able to pull Jiovanna Dominguez from the wreckage to safety.
Moments later, the car burst into flames. Jesus David Dominguez and Isaac Felix were killed.
Jiovanna Dominguez was taken to the UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest. Her family said she suffered extensive injuries including second-degree burns to 20 percent of her body, a fractured neck, a collapsed lung, a broken femur and a broken bone near her eye. She will, however, survive.
On Friday, a Dominguez family spokesperson told NBC 7 that Jiovanna Dominguez is in stable condition but is experiencing extreme bouts of shock as she learns what happened and that her brother and boyfriend are gone.
Felix's sister Selena, one of three sisters who showed up to court Friday, had this to say about her younger brother Isaac.
“My brother didn’t deserve this," she said. "He was a good individual, never hurt anybody. He never did drugs, he never did alcohol. He was happy. He could put a smile on your face. He was young and full of life.”
Selena said the family was still getting over the loss of their father before they were hit with this tragic news.
"[Isaac] was always the strong one and kept us all together, and now we're here without him," she added.
The SDPD officer involved in the crash suffered moderate injuries and was also hospitalized. His name was not released.
As for Levi, he crashed his red Ford Mustang into a nearby ditch on I-15 following the collision and fled. He was found about 15 minutes later walking in the area of the crash by an SDPD helicopter and was taken into custody. He was booked into San Diego Central Jail.
Levi's blood alcohol content (BAC) was measured at .167 approximately 3 hours after the crash, according to Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright, which is more than double the limit for driving under the influence.
Selena Felix described the moment in court when she saw the face of the man allegedly responsible for her brother's death.
"I felt anger towards him, obviously," she said. "He, as well as the second [driver] are at fault for what happened and my brother and Jiovanna's brother deserve justice."
Bright said that considering it was the initial collision between Levi's Mustang and the Toyota carrying Jiovanna and Jesus Dominguez and Isaac Felix that put the Toyota in a vulnerable position, and additional factors like Levi's speed and alleged impairment, charging Levi with murder was justified.
The legal culpability of the off-duty SDPD officer who was driving the SUV that struck the Toyota is still under investigation, according to Bright.
Court records obtained Thursday by NBC 7 show that Levi has a prior conviction tied to drunk driving and a history of alleged violence.
In August 2007, Levi pleaded guilty to a DUI. A judge sentenced him to five years’ probation, completion of a first offender DUI program, and ordered Levi to pay a $1,834 fine.
Two years later, another judge issued a civil restraining order against Levi, after his Hillcrest roommate testified that Levi came home drunk and threatened to kill him with a kitchen knife. On Dec. 21, 2009, Judge Ronald Frazier issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Levi from harassing, attacking or otherwise harming his roommate.
According to court documents, another judge dissolved the restraining order and dismissed the case a week later, on Jan. 7, 2010, after the roommate failed to appear at a scheduled hearing.
Jesus David Dominguez leaves behind two young children and his wife, Samantha Munoz. An online fundraising page has been created to help the family of the victims killed and hurt in this crash. To donate, click here.