A Marine accused of causing a crash that killed two medical students had a blood-alcohol level of .14 and had been warned repeatedly by friends and bar staff not to drive, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Jason Riley King, 21, was arraigned Wednesday from his hospital room on two counts of murder among other charges. He suffered injuries in Saturday’s crash and has been hospitalized ever since.
Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright said in some cases, murder charges are appropriate for DUI crashes.
"If I can prove this indivudal had a conscious disregard for human life and knew the dangers of what he was doing, then we are going to evaluate and if appropriate, charge these cases as murder," Bright said.
King, an active duty Marine from Oklahoma stationed at MCAS Miramar, was driving the wrong way early Saturday morning on SR-163 in Mission Valley when his vehicle collided with an oncoming Toyota Prius.
Anne Li Baldock, 24, and Madison Elizabeth Cornwell, 23, who had both just completed their second year of medical school at UC San Diego, were killed.
Three others, also medical students, were injured in the crash, officers said.
Prosecutors said at Wednesday's arraignment that King had been drinking with friends at the Mission Valley Hotel that night. When he got up to leave, they tried to stop him.
Still, he left and met up with a female Marine friend at another bar, prosecutors said. When she went to the bathroom, he took his car keys and left -- but was stopped by a bar manager in the parking lot.
The bar manager tried to stop him from driving, as did his friend when she joined them in the parking lot, prosecutors said.
Still, King drove off and somehow got on SR-163 heading the wrong way, causing what one officer described as "the most horrific crash he had ever responded to," the prosecutor said.
King's BAC level was .14, nearly twice the legal limit of .08, investigators said.
A Miramar spokeswoman said the Marine Corps is taking the matter against King, who works with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, “very seriously.”
Capt. Melanie Salinas said in a statement that “he will be appropriately held accountable for his actions.”
Also on Wednesday afternoon, family members of the deceased women were gathering to honor and remember their lives.
Cornwell's brother and sister tearfully addressed reporters and news photographers before their sister's memorial service.
They had a powerful message for anyone contemplating driving drunk.
"Just don't do it. It's not worth it," said Cornwell's brother, Grayson.
Grayson said his sister was always smiling, always thought of others ahead of herself and had high aspirations in the medical field.
"Madison was extremely accomplished, but she cared more about helping the world one person at a time," he said.
He said her family was so proud of the accomplishments she achieved in her short life.
"In the 23 years she lived, she did more with her life than most people could dream of," he said.
Grayson and his sister, Sheldon, declined to speak specifically about the driver who caused the wreck.
Instead, they wanted to focus on their sister's life.
"She's an amazing woman and I wish she could still be here today," Sheldon said.