UPDATE: Man with 3 prior DUI’s charged with murder after Jan DUI wreck that killed sisters
MENIFEE — Authorities investigating a January crash that killed two Lake Elsinore sisters and critically injured their mother say they have arrested the man who caused the deadly collision. The women were driving home from their weekly Bingo trip when the accident happened, according to grieving family and friends.
At the time of the crash the man accused in the fatal collision, Jose Luis Sepulveda, 31, of Lake Elsinore, already had an extensive criminal history in Riverside County dating back to 2010; including three prior DUI arrests – two of which he never appeared for in court and had outstanding warrants for.
Riverside County Superior Court records show Sepulveda was arrested for DUI in September and December 2016, and again in July, 2018. Although he was convicted of the first 2016 DUI, he failed to appear in court for both of his later DUI arrests.
Court documents show he also has other earlier felony criminal cases he has never showed up in court for.
In addition to his three DUI arrests, Sepulveda’s criminal history show he has been arrested several other times, with charges including robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, possession of controlled substance, driving on a suspended license, and multiple other crimes.
Sepulveda has since been charged with two counts of second degree murder, driving under the influence of alcohol causing great bodily injury, and driving on a suspended license. He was also booked on outstanding warrants for failing to appear on several of his prior cases; including the two earlier DUI’s he never showed up to court for. He remains in custody on $2 million bail.
LEADING THE RCNS HEADLINES:
Following an extensive, months-long investigation into January’s deadly crash, deputies arrested Sepulveda at the Lake Elsinore Sheriff’s Station Thursday afternoon, March 5.
Deputies began their investigation Jan. 24, after receiving reports of a multi-vehicle, major injury traffic collision in the Canyon Lake area. The accident happened where Railroad Canyon Rd. turns into Newport Rd., west of Goetz Rd., between the cities of Lake Elsinore and Menifee.
Sisters, Benita Hayden and Tina Slatten were killed and their mother, Sharon Waldman was critically injured when Jose Sepulveda slammed into the rear of another car while speeding on Railroad Canyon Rd. The impact sent one of the two vehicles catapulting end over end, where it then struck the victims’ car. Calista Magee photo
When officials arrived they found a chaotic scene, with wrecked and overturned vehicles scattered across the roadway. Vehicle parts and debris, along with a destroyed concrete Canyon Lake sign, were blocking both directions of travel as witnesses and good Samaritans attempted to help the injured victims any way they could.
Several of the injured victims were trapped inside their wrecked vehicles and required extrication, fire officials reported at the time.
One of the victims, 57-year-old, Benita Heyden, sustained major traumatic injuries and passed away at the scene of the crash. A later coroner’s release indicated she was pronounced deceased at 10:04 p.m.
Heyden’s sister, 58-year-old, Tina Slatten, was rushed to Riverside University Health Systems Medical Center, where she also later passed away, according to coroner officials. She was pronounced deceased at 11:48 p.m.
Heyden and Slatten’s mother, Sharon Waldman, was hospitalized with critical injuries. She suffered internal bleeding as well as broken bones in both legs, feet and ankles, according to family members; who told RCNS at the time that the “beloved grandmother” learned of her daughters’ passing “right before doctors were to begin her first of many life-saving operations” at Loma Linda Hospital in Murrieta.
Waldman has since undergone numerous surgeries and is slowly continuing to recover.
January’s fatal crash killed sisters Benita Hayden and Tina Slatten and critically injured their mother Sharon Waldman. The trio was returning home from their weekly Bingo trip, according to grieving family members.
Deputies who investigated the cause of the deadly collision determined Sepulveda was speeding eastbound on Railroad Canyon Rd. when he plowed into the back of a vehicle that was also traveling eastbound, Riverside Sheriff’s Sgt. Dominic Schreiber described shortly after the fatal collision.
According to witnesses, the tremendous impact sent one of the two vehicles somersaulting over a center median, where it then smashed into the car occupied by the sisters and their mother.
After the deadly crash witnesses talked about what they had seen, including Facebook user Adri Enne, who described seeing the “awful” crash.
Enne said that immediately after the collision she was one of several motorists and good Samaritans who ran to the aid of the two dying women and their mother.
“I watched the car flip in my rear view mirror. It was so terrible,” Enne described at the time; saying, “Those are images I’ll never get out of my head.”
Corona resident Monica Garcia later described pulling up to the scene of the crash just after it happened.
“It was an awful scene, with debris all over all lanes,” Garcia explained; saying she saw numerous people running to help the victims, checking pulses, and trying to help any way they could.
Another witness, Canyon Lake resident Calista Magee described hearing the crash from her nearby home.
“The crash literally shook our whole house,” Magee described at the time; saying she watched the aftermath of the fatal crash as rescuers worked to free the trapped victims and treat those injured in the collision.
Jose Luis Sepulveda, 31, of Lake Elsinore remains in custody on $2 million bail after a DUI crash that killed Lake Elsinore sisters Benita Hayden and Rita Slatten. The women’s mother, Sharon Waldman, was critically injured and is continuing to recover.
When Sepulveda was arraigned earlier today at Murrieta’s Southwest Justice Center, he pleaded not guilty to the twelve felony and misdemeanor counts against him. His next court case, a Felony Settlement Conference has been scheduled for March 13. He remains in custody at Cois Byrd Detention Center in lieu of $2 million bail.
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Trevor Montgomery, 48, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, (the now defunct) Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 29 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 16 grandchildren.