A judge threw out second-degree murder charges against a man accused of driving drunk and killing two people in Las Vegas.
Aaron Kruse, 24, admitted to police to drinking before he drove about 115 mph and slamming into a Toyota Corolla in a crash that left Norma Ortiz, 45, and Alfonso Toxqui, 49, dead in November.
Deputy Public Defender David Westbrook argued that charging Kruse with second-degree murder violated state law.
Senior Judge Michael Cherry, a former Nevada Supreme Court justice, dismissed three counts against Kruse on Wednesday, including killing a dog that was in the Corolla, according to court records and Westbrook.
“This case is about our system of government working the way it’s supposed to work,” Westbrook said. “Judge Cherry simply applied the laws as they are written on the books. He made the right decision. He’s uniquely suited to examine this issue, with his long tenure on the Supreme Court. I applaud Judge Cherry for analyzing the case.”
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson has said that charging a motorist who engages in reckless behavior behind the wheel and kills someone with second-degree murder is not barred by law.
Prosecutors told the judge on Wednesday that they needed time to decide whether to appeal the decision.
Kruse still faces two counts of driving under the influence resulting in death and two counts of reckless driving.
At the time of the crash, police said, Kruse was driving a white 2019 Ford Mustang south on Boulder Highway when it slammed into the rear of the Corolla near Flamingo Road. The Toyota caught fire, and Kruse later told police he was “consuming unknown alcoholic beer celebrating an unknown friend’s birthday.”
He said he was headed home, knew that he was involved in a collision, but could not recall exactly what happened, according to police.
Kruse remains in the Clark County Detention Center on $100,000 bail.
In a separate fatal DUI case stemming from a May 2017 crash, District Judge Douglas Herndon upheld a murder count. But Westbrook has appealed that decision with the high court, which said in an order in November that the appeal raised “significant questions of statutory interpretation.”
In that case, Ronald Leavell, 50, is accused of causing a crash that killed Gerardo Villicana Jr., 26. Authorities said Leavell was high on marijuana and speeding, traveling between 70 and 142 mph through a residential neighborhood.
In another case, Aylin Alderette, 27, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and driving under the influence in an August 2018 crash that killed 8-year-old Levi Echenique. She had marijuana in her system and was driving more than 100 mph just before the crash. In November 2018, she was sentenced in to at least 26 years in prison.