INDIO (CNS) – A 24-year-old man suspected in a traffic collision that killed three people last year in Palm Desert pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder.
Ricardo Adrian Meza of Palm Desert was charged with three counts of murder for the Dec. 28, 2022, deaths of Elena Morron, 84, of Los Angeles and Anza residents Abel Alvarado, 69, and Yolanda Alvarado, 65, according to court records.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges Thursday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.
According to a declaration in support of Meza’s arrest filed on Feb. 22 by Deputy Thomas with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, two deputies were at the intersection of Fred Waring Drive and Monterey Avenue at around 7:15 p.m. on Dec. 28 when they saw a car driving over 100 mph.
The two deputies tried to find the speeding vehicle and subsequently saw that it was involved in a collision approximately a quarter-mile away at the intersection of Fred Waring and Adonis Drive, Thomas said.
Meza was allegedly driving a 2021 Honda Accord at a high rate of speed westbound on Fred Waring when he collided with a 2015 Nissan Sentra as it was making a left turn, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Don Olson.
The driver and two passengers of the Nissan were trapped inside the vehicle and subsequently died at the scene, according to the Riverside County Fire Department. Meza was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
“It is my opinion Meza knew it was dangerous to drive at a high rate of speed and could likely result in death,” Thomas alleged in the warrant. “Meza’s decisions and actions were in utter disregard for human life and resulted in the death of three victims in the Nissan.”
On Friday, the Palm Desert sheriff’s station Traffic Team, Investigations Bureau, Burglary Suppression Unit and the Fugitive Warrant Enforcement Team found Meza in the 67000 block of Dillon Road, in South Desert Hot Springs, Olson said. He was booked into the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio, where he remains held without bail.
Thomas also alleged in the warrant that in February 2020, Meza had also engaged in a speed contest on the same street as the collision and was pulled over by Deputy Jose Santos. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of exhibition of speed later that year, according to court records.
“Santos stopped Meza’s vehicle and lectured Meza about driving that fast and specifically advised him that people die as a result of street racing,” Thomas said in the warrant. “Meza responded he was aware that his coworker had recently been arrested for street racing and that he should know better because he’s studying criminal justice.”
Anyone with information on the crash was asked to call Deputy Claro Sanchez of the Palm Desert sheriff’s station at 760-836-1600 or Crime Stoppers at 800-782-7463.
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