SAN DIEGO — A drunken driver who crashed his Ford Mustang into another car at 121 mph on Interstate 15, leading to a second collision that killed two men, was convicted Thursday of second-degree murder and other charges.
A Nov. 1 sentencing date is scheduled for Jeffrey Brian Levi, who was also found guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit-and-run and drunken driving counts. The 39-year-old defendant was charged with murder due to a 2007 misdemeanor DUI conviction.
Levi rear-ended the victims’ Toyota Corolla about 11:45 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2018, on northbound I-15 near Miramar Road, then walked away from the crash scene unscathed after his Mustang swerved off the freeway and down an embankment.
The Corolla was left disabled in the fast lane with no lights on, its three occupants — who weren’t injured in the initial collision — were “sitting ducks” for the crash that followed a short time later, according to Deputy District Attorney Andrew Aguilar.
A Ford Explorer driven by off-duty San Diego police Sgt. Raymond Rowe struck the Corolla, which burst into flames. Jesus David Dominguez, 33, and 19- year-old Isaac Felix were trapped in the wreckage and burned to death. Bystanders were able to rescue Giovanna Dominguez — Jesus Dominguez’s sister and Felix’s girlfriend — from the crumpled car, and she sustained broken bones and burns across her body.
The Ford Explorer overturned, coming to rest upside down, and Rowe was treated for minor to moderately serious injuries.
About three hours after the crash, Levi had a blood-alcohol content of 0.16%, which is twice the legal limit, according to Aguilar.
Defense attorney Amanda Waddle told jurors that Levi was a scapegoat. She alleged that Rowe was responsible for the crash due to negligent driving. According to Waddle, Rowe was speeding, failed to wear his prescription glasses and was looking in his rearview mirror at the time of impact.
Both Rowe and Levi, along with the city of San Diego, are defendants in a civil suit filed by the victims’ families. The civil case has been delayed pending the outcome of Levi’s criminal trial. A motions hearing in that case is currently set for Sept. 20.