Clark County prosecutors filed second-degree murder charges Wednesday against two men accused of driving under the influence in recent crashes that killed three people.
Aaron Kruse, 24, of Las Vegas, is accused of causing a crash early Saturday that left two people dead. Kevin Raspperry, 35, of Henderson, is accused of causing a seven-vehicle crash on Oct. 27 that left a 65-year-old man dead.
Both initially faced charges of DUI resulting in death and reckless driving.
District Attorney Steve Wolfson said in a news conference that each face the upgraded charges after prosecutors reviewed evidence and determined the defendants’ actions were so reckless that they warranted murder charges.
Las Vegas Valley defense attorneys, however, said Wednesday that murder charges against drunken driving suspects will not hold up in court. They said Nevada law sets the charge and punishment for DUI crashes that result in serious injury or death.
“What the DA is doing is creating their own law,” said attorney John Watkins, who regularly defends DUI suspects.
Craig Mueller, who is representing Raspperry, said he expects the murder charge against his client to be tossed.
“The law says when you have a specific statute, it takes precedence over common law,” Mueller said. “This theory of liability has been specifically rejected in Nevada.”
Watkins said the practice of charging DUI suspects with murder is “a new trend.”
“I’m fully aware of what they are trying to do, and what they are trying to do is improper and illegal,” he said.
The practice, however, is not without precedent in Southern Nevada.
In May 2017, Ronald Leavell, then 47, became the first DUI suspect to be charged with second-degree murder in Clark County. He is accused of driving while high on marijuana and causing a crash that left a 26-year-old father of two dead.
Online court records indicate Leavell’s trial date is set for Dec. 2.
Alderette pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and driving under the influence. She was sentenced to at least 26 years in prison.
‘You have choices’
Wolfson, flanked by Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo during Wednesday’s news conference, said Raspperry had two prior DUI convictions.
“He was also driving on a revoked driver’s license,” Wolfson said. “He should not have been driving at all.”
Wolfson said Raspperry had a blood alcohol level of 0.20, two and a half times the legal limit of 0.08 in Nevada. Raspperry also had methamphetamine, ecstasy and marijuana in his system, and he was driving 85 mph before the crash, Wolfson said.
Raspperry was ordered held on $100,000 bail. He has an arraignment set for Friday morning.
Wolfson said authorities believe Kruse was driving 115 mph at the time of Saturday’s crash and that he also had a blood alchohol level of 0.20.
According to a Metropolitan Police Department arrest report, Kruse admitted to police he was drinking beer and celebrating a friend’s birthday before getting into his car and driving.
Kruse wept in court during proceedings Wednesday that reaffirmed bail of $250,000. A preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 26.
“Listen to my words carefully,” Wolfson said at the conference. “You have choices. Designated driver … call a friend. Call a family member. Call Uber. Call Lyft.
“Or what about not drinking that night because it is not worth it?”
Contact Glenn Puit at email@example.com or 702-383-0390. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.