Torrey Pines State Beach

Moreno Valley Man Facing Murder, DUI Charges for Crash on Torrey Pines State Beach


A 19-year-old Moreno Valley accused of driving drunk and crashing his Subaru on the sand of Torrey Pines State Beach, killing two of his passengers, pleaded not guilty to murder charges Wednesday.

Christopher Schmittel was driving drunk when he lost control of his Subaru sedan along North Torrey Pines Road, punched through a guardrail and crashed on the beach below, according to prosecutors. His passengers, Johnny Ildefonzo Punzalan and Joshua Adonai Manzanares, two 19-year-olds from Lake Elsinore, died in the crash.

Prosecutors allege Schmittel was driving under the influence of both alcohol and drugs, but have not disclosed what drug or drugs he is accused of using.

NBC 7's Nicole Gomez speaks to a man who was there as authorities responded to a deadly crash involving a car that went over a guardrail and landed on Torrey Pines State Beach.

Schmittel was hospitalized with serious injuries and later released. He was arrested by Fugitive Task Force officers at his home on Sunday.

He faces up to 30 years to life in state prison if convicted of the second-degree murder counts, plus charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI causing injury.

Anyone with information is asked to call SDPD at (619) 531-2000 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.

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