Man accused in deadly hit and run pleads not guilty - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Man accused in deadly hit and run pleads not guilty

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A motorist accused of killing a 68-year-old community activist removing graffiti in Mission Beach pleaded not guilty Thursday to eight charges, including gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and felony hit-and-run.    

Jonathan Domingo Garcia, 23, is accused of causing Friday's crash, in which Maruta Gardner was fatally injured.    

Deputy District Attorney Steven Schott told Judge Jay Bloom that at about 3 p.m. Friday -- three hours before the crash -- Garcia and a friend were seen slashing tires on cars.    

About three hours later, the car Garcia was driving rear-ended a Ford Mustang, and he failed to stop, the prosecutor said.    

The driver of the Mustang pulled in front of Garcia's Toyota Corolla, authorities said. Garcia then made an illegal right turn in a 15-mph zone, and struck the victim, who was on the road's shoulder, Schott said. Gardner died the next day.    

Garcia drove away but stopped at some point to check the damage on his car, authorities said. He then drove away again, and his vehicle clipped another car before he was stopped by police, the prosecutor told the judge.    

Three hours after the accident, Garcia's blood-alcohol level was measured at .06 percent, Schott said. Alcohol, marijuana and depressants were found in the defendant's system.    

When advised that the victim was near death, Garcia showed no emotion, according to the prosecutor.    

Bloom said Garcia was an ``extreme danger'' and a flight risk and set bail at $550,000.    

The defendant faces 15 years in prison if convicted. A readiness conference was set for March 10 and a preliminary hearing for April 20.    

Gardner, a former principal at Mission Bay High School, was honored by the San Diego City Council last year, which declared Nov. 3 "Maruta Gardner Day."

A Facebook page has been set up in Murta's memory

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