SAN DIEGO — A repeat DUI offender who was allegedly drunk when he drove on the shoulder of eastbound state Route 52 and struck a tow-truck operator tending to a disabled trash truck pleaded not guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder and other charges.
Michael Gilbert Gray, 48, was ordered held on $3 million bail.
Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright said Gray — who has three prior DUIs dating back to 1999 — was allegedly under the influence of alcohol when he avoided slow traffic shortly after 5 p.m. last Thursday by driving onto the shoulder of the freeway near Mission Trails Regional Park.
Gray struck and killed 55-year-old Fred Griffith and drove off, but was followed by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, who got the defendant to pull over three-quarters of a mile down the road, the prosecutor said.
The defendant — who had a half-empty bottle of vodka in his car — was still showing signs of intoxication three hours after the crash, Bright said. Gray’s blood-alcohol content is not yet known.
Gray — who also has a felony conviction for committing a lewd act on a child — faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and leaving the scene of the crash. His last DUI was in 2013, Bright said.
The victim was a single father to three teenage boys.
“He was one of the funniest guys you’d ever meet,” said Griffith’s oldest son, Michael, who is 19. “He would do pretty much anything for you if you really asked him to. I don’t know how a lot of people are going to get by without him.”
Gray will be back in court March 9 for a readiness conference and March 13 for a preliminary hearing.