BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Kern County jury on Wednesday convicted a man of murder for the deaths of two people in a 2018 drunken driving crash on Highway 43.
The jury found Steve Flores Garza guilty of two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter and two counts of DUI causing injury. Garza, who has prior DUI convictions, faces a life term in prison. He looked down and wiped his eyes as the verdict was read.
A trial will be held Thursday morning on aggravating factors filed in the case, after which a sentencing date will be set.
Deputy District Attorney Tara Deal prosecuted the case, and Garza was represented by attorney Benjamin Nkwonta.
Witnesses reported Garza had been driving recklessly June 26, 2018, when his Chevy Trailblazer collided with a Honda Accord, killing occupants Isaiah Jacob Sanchez, 20, and Emilio Junior Mendoza, 23, both of Shafter. A third person in the car was badly injured.
According to reports filed by the California Highway Patrol, the Honda had slowed to make a left turn onto Burbank Road when the Trailblazer swerved into the opposite lane to pass traffic and slammed into the driver’s side.
The reports say Garza admitted drinking a few “tall cans” of Budweiser before the crash. He told police he had been traveling about 60 mph when the car suddenly appeared in front of him.