The District Attorney's Office filed the charge on Thursday against 25-year-old Javier Caldera from Auburn, Washington. Caldera was charged with one count of second-degree murder as well as other counts including driving under the influence of a drug with sentencing enhancements of causing great bodily injury. If convicted as currently charged, Caldera faces a potential life sentence, the DA's office said.
The crash occurred Tuesday around 7:30 a.m. on the southbound 15 Freeway near Rancho California Road.
Caldera was driving a 2011 Chevrolet Silverado southbound at high speed, believed to be in excess of 100 mph based on witness statements, when his vehicle slammed into the back of a Nissan Altima driven by Janet Genao, 44, of Murrieta. Genao died at the scene, DA's officials said. She leaves behind a husband and teenage daughter.
Dashcam video from a vehicle that was not involved in the pileup shows a dark 2011 Chevrolet Silverado slamming into the back of a car whose brake lights were on. That footage was being reviewed as part of the California Highway Patrol's investigation, a spokesperson for the agency said.
Several other vehicles were also involved in the chain-reaction crash including a Chevy S-10 pickup that careened off the freeway and hit the wall of a parking garage at Temecula City Hall. The drivers of three other vehicles involved in the crash were injured, according to authorities.
Mike Rivera-Aquilar, the driver of the S-10, apparently suffered broken ribs, a broken leg and a facial fracture after his truck went careening off the freeway.
"It's clear from this individual's criminal history that he is a threat to anyone on the road," said Riverside County Deputy DA Allison Pace.
Pace argued that Caldera should not be given bail. The judge agreed after hearing the DA describe the circumstances of the crash, saying Caldera had just hit another car and was fleeing the scene a mile before this fatal wreck.
The DA's office said Caldera told investigators he was heading to Mexico at the time, so they consider him to be a flight risk. The suspect is expected back in court on June 18.
Caldera has previous convictions in Washington state including driving under the influence and felony attempt to elude, the DA's office said.