San Diego

Man Accused of Driving Drunk, Killing Pedestrian Appears in Court

The man accused of driving drunk and hitting a woman in an Escondido crosswalk, killing her, made his first court appearance Wednesday.

In a Vista courtroom, 32-year-old Joel Francisco Juan pleaded not guilty to one felony count of vehicular manslaughter and two felony counts of driving under the influence.

Esmeralda Guerrero, 32, was killed when hit while crossing north on East Washington Avenue with her boyfriend at around 12:15 a.m. Sunday. There is now a small street side memorial of candles on the corner where it happened.

Deputy District Attorney Chris Campbell says Guerrero was walking just behind her boyfriend as they were legally crossing the street. Campbell says Juan swerved to miss Guerrero's boyfriend but hit Guerrero. Campbell said Guerrero’s blood alcohol level was .18, more than twice the legal limit.

Guerrero’s mother, father and brother were in court Wednesday for Juan’s arraignment. Through a translator, Antonia Guerrero said she came to the hearing because she wanted to see the man who “killed her daughter.”

She also said she was glad bail was set at $500,000 which is more than what is recommended in the bail schedule set by lawmakers.

When determining bail, Campbell said the court looks at an individual’s danger to the public.

“In this case, when someone is driving with a blood-alcohol level that high, they are a severe risk to the public. In addition, if there is a flight risk, whether or not they will stay in the county if they get out on bail."

Campbell said the judge has documents indicating Juan has an immigration hold on him. He could not say why, but did say Juan has a local address and a job.

Guerrero’s mother had this message about driving under the influence.

“Tell people not to drink and drive because innocent people die,” she said.

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