Drunk hit-and-run driver faces 2nd murder trial in Lyft driver’s death

SAN DIEGO  — A drunk motorist who fatally struck a Lyft driver tending to a sick passenger on a freeway shoulder must stand trial for a second time on murder and manslaughter charges after a first trial ended with a hung jury, a judge ruled Friday.

Steven Cervantes Quintero, 25, was found guilty last month of DUI causing injury, hit-and-run and driving on a suspended license in connection with the September 2016 crash. But the jury was deadlocked 6-6 on a second- degree murder charge and 10-2 for guilt on a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter.

Judge Kenneth So on Friday declined Quintero’s attorney’s motion to dismiss those charges. Quintero will now face the accusations at a new trial.

“Everyone’s had a chance to argue” whether the charges should be dismissed, So said. ” I understand it.”

Quintero has a prior DUI conviction from November 2015.

A passenger in the Lyft car, Kelly Hoffman, testified at a hearing last year that she and two friends were dropped off about 11 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2016, and had drinks at a couple of downtown San Diego nightclubs before stopping for some gelato.

As they headed home about 1 a.m. in the Lyft car driven by 41-year-old Henry O. Reyes of Escondido, passenger Sarah Smith got sick and Reyes pulled onto the shoulder of eastbound state Route 94 near 28th Street to get her out of the car and give her some water, Hoffman testified.

Minutes later, the Lyft car was hit from behind and Reyes — an aspiring dentist and the father of a 2-year-old child — was killed as he walked around the car to get back in.

Hoffman, who was on the phone in the backseat when the collision occurred, said she “was hit so hard I didn’t know where I was” and suffered a broken bone on the top of her foot, whiplash and a concussion.

Smith, who had cuts to her chin, a neck injury and a bruised spine, said she has no memory of the crash.

According to court testimony, Quintero was entering the freeway at 25th Street when he slammed into the back of Reyes’ Kia.

Quintero walked away from the collision but was arrested nearby a short time later. A female passenger in his car suffered a broken wrist.

The defendant’s blood-alcohol content was between 0.14 and 0.16 percent at the time of the accident, according to court testimony.

He is due back in court June 11.