Train crash prosecutors grill Alvarez

LOS ANGELES Juan Manuel Alvarez, 29, is accused of causing the Metrolink train derailment that killed 11 people in 2005.

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Alvarez took the stand Wednesday, for the second day in a row in the murder trial where he is now fighting for his life.

In a courtroom filled with victims family members, Alvarez testified that he was fighting a methamphetamine drug addiction that caused him to go into withdrawals and become suicidal.

He claimed he was only trying to kill himself when he parked his Jeep Cherokee on the railroad tracks on January 26.

Alvarez said he thought that his Jeep would be hit by a freight train instead of a passenger train.

Todd McKeown, whose brother Scott was killed that day, says that he does not believe Alvarez's story.

"I have seen him trying to make a lot of excuses for being the way that he is and for what he did. He is wanting people to feel sorry for him and I am just not getting that. I do not feel sorry for him. What he did out there was more calculated than he wants us to believe. I think he knew what he was doing," said Todd McKeown.

Along with the 11 people who were killed more than 180 were injured.

Defense attorneys pointed out Alvarez's alleged sexual and physical abuse as a child. But prosecutors began their cross-examination Wednesday hammering away at that defense. They described Alvarez as a dangerous manipulator who intended to do harm.

"A lot of this was calculated, he thought about it and he did it. He wants to blame the fact that he had an abusive childhood or that he was using drugs. The use of drugs is not an excuse," said Tony Tutino, a victim's brother.

Alvarez claimed at the last minute he decided against going through with the suicide attempt and tried to back his vehicle off of the tracks. The Jeep stalled and he ran away before the crash.

If he is convicted of the 11 counts of murder with special circumstances, he could be put to death.

Alvarez, who is jailed without bail, is set to face a third day of questioning Thursday.


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