Jury Convicts Earnesto Nava Herrera (27) of murder in the drunk driving death of 14-year-old
Author: District Attorney
2/1/2024 1:36:51 PM
District Attorney Dan Dow announced today that a San Luis Obispo County jury has convicted Earnesto Nava Herrera (07/28/1996) of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit and run causing death, driving while under the influence of alcohol causing great bodily injury, and driving on a suspended license.
The jury found Herrera guilty on all charged counts, which included second degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit and run causing death, driving under the influence of alcohol causing great bodily injury, and driving on a suspended license.
During the nearly three week trial jurors heard evidence that on the evening of March 27, 2021, Herrera, while driving heavily intoxicated, collided with 70 feet of metal pipe fencing and knocked over a tree. He fled in his vehicle and entered Highway 101 using the Tefft Street off-ramp. While driving the wrong direction on the off-ramp, Herrera nearly collided with a vehicle that was exiting the freeway. The vehicle was able to swerve to avoid a head on collision. Herrera continued to accelerate northbound on 101 against traffic when he crashed into the victim vehicle head on. The collision killed a 14-year-old and seriously injured two others in the victim vehicle.
Herrera fled on foot as his vehicle was disabled. About an hour after the deadly crash, California Highway Patrol located Herrera, by using a helicopter with FLIR (forward facing infrared) technology. He was crawling near the freeway in an apparent attempt to avoid detection. Herrera had a blood alcohol level of .164, nearly 2 ½ hours after the deadly crash.
On December 31, 2020, just three months before the fatal collision, Herrera was arrested for DUI and was read the following admonition: ‘Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous to human life to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. If you continue to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, and as a result of that driving, someone is killed, you can be charged with murder.’
“This is a terrible, yet completely avoidable tragedy,” said Assistant District Attorney Eric Dobroth. “As this incident so heartbreakingly illustrates, driving while impaired puts every life on the roadway in peril. We are committed to the aggressive prosecution of those driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in our community and will charge murder when appropriate. We thank the jury for their focused attention and recognize the psychological impact of serving on a case as tragic as this.”
Please report suspected impaired drivers by calling 911. If you find yourself in a position where you have been drinking or have ingested drugs (legal or otherwise) and suspect that you may be impaired, please do not drive; call a friend or a ride service, or simply stay put until you sober up. If you see someone who is about to drive while impaired, please act. Let’s all be part of the solution.
Herrera faces life in prison at his sentencing scheduled for March 5, 2024, in Department 6 of the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, the Honorable Michael S. Frye presiding.
The case was investigated by the California Highway Patrol, with the assistance of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation and was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Melissa Chabra.
Here is a copy of the charging document. Here is a copy of the defendant’s booking photo.
Please contact Assistant District Attorney Eric J. Dobroth at 805.781.5819 with any questions.