Driver pleads guilty to manslaughter
The driver of a speeding car on state Route 67 who crashed into two cars that resulted in the death of a 25-year-old mother made a surprise guilty plea Monday to vehicular manslaughter.
Alcohol is not a factor in the death of Alexandria Drake, but excessive speed by Melvin Leroy Pearles, 48, is the main reason he was charged in El Cajon Superior Court.
Drake was killed on March 29, 2009. Her 1-month-old son, who was strapped properly in the back seat, was not hurt.
Sentencing was set for March 23 by Judge Peter Deddeh. Pearles’ lawyer, Dawn Beebee, said she couldn’t reach a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s office, but said the judge set the maximum term at six years in state prison.
“He was going too fast on a really bad road. If he had been speeding on another road, it (the fatality) wouldn’t have happened,” said Beebee. “It was a bad set of circumstances. The problem is there is no center divider (on SR 67).”
Besides the highway, Beebee said the driver of a white BMW who didn’t stop should share the blame. Beebee said Pearles told her the BMW kept creeping up behind him and drove strangely, as if he wanted something. Beebee said there is no evidence of drag racing, but her client did speed up to get away from that car.
“I’m certainly going to ask for probation. He has no priors, no record,” said Beebee.
The defense attorney said Pearles agreed to plead guilty because he did not want to put the victim’s family through a trial. It had been set for Feb. 22.
Pearles was driving a 2001 Jaguar around 11:15 a.m. when his car spun out of control, he sideswiped another vehicle before crashing into Drake’s vehicle. Pearles also told California Highway Patrol officers that he was speeding so he could get to a bathroom.
Drake lived in Ramona for many years, as does her mother, Pamela McKeirnan, who was a witness in the crash as she had been driving behind her daughter. Drake moved to Chula Vista near where her husband works.
Authorities investigated the circumstances of the crash before the lone charge of vehicular manslaughter was filed against Pearles in June. Pearles, of Ranchita, had been free on his own recognizance until his Oct. 28 preliminary hearing when Judge Patricia Cookson set bail at $75,000.
Pearles was remanded into jail that day.
Beebee sought a bail reduction, which was opposed by Deputy District Attorney Martin Doyle. Cookson reduced the bail to $50,000 on Nov. 6, but Pearles remained in jail until his family was able to post $50,000 bond for him around Jan. 1.
Pearles remains free on condition he does not drive. He has surrendered his driver’s license, according to court records.
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