Driver charged with murder and DUI for hitting, killing local Marine

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VISTA, Calif. (CNS) – A man who allegedly was driving drunk when he hit and killed a 22- year-old active-duty Marine pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and drunken driving.

William Vaden, 32, is accused of striking Juan Muniz III — a Texas native who was then stationed at Camp Pendleton — on Jan. 26 as Muniz was crossing an Oceanside roadway.

Muniz was crossing North Coast Highway near Sportfisher Drive around 1:10 a.m. when he was struck, according to police and prosecutors. Paramedics responded to the scene and took him to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, where he was pronounced dead about an hour later, the Medical Examiner’s Office reported.

Vaden, who remained at the scene, was initially arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, but bailed out.

At Vaden’s Thursday morning arraignment, Deputy District Attorney David Uyar said Vaden had a blood-alcohol content of .22%, nearly three times the legal limit. The prosecutor said Vaden had finished work and stopped by several Oceanside-area bars prior to the fatal collision.

The criminal complaint alleges Vaden has a prior DUI conviction from 2010, which makes him eligible to be charged with murder in the event of a fatal DUI.

Deputy Public Defender Patricia Valdovinos argued for a reduction in Vaden’s bail — originally set at $1 million — or for a release from custody. She argued that Vaden was not a flight risk as he’d been out of custody for nearly seven months since the incident and remained in the area until his arrest earlier this month.

Vaden’s bail was ultimately set at $250,000 and he is due back in court Sept. 15 for a readiness conference.

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