Booking Photo (3/28/2021) Earnesto Nava Herrera (07/28/1996)  Sentenced
Booking Photo (3/28/2021) Earnesto Nava Herrera (07/28/1996) Sentenced

Earnesto Nava Herrera (27) sentenced to 15 years to life for murder in the drunk driving death of 14-year-old

Author: District Attorney
Date: 3/14/2024 4:29:04 PM

District Attorney Dan Dow announced today that Earnesto Nava Herrera (DOB 07/28/1996) has been sentenced to 6 years 8 months plus 15 years to life for the murder, hit and run causing death, driving while under the influence of alcohol causing great bodily injury, and driving on a suspended license.

On January 30, 2023 a San Luis Obispo County 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. 

Herrera also pleaded no contest to possession of child pornography that was discovered on his phone during the homicide investigation. 

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 14-year-old “J” 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.’   

At the sentencing hearing the 14-year old victim’s biological mother provided the following statement describing her son:

“My son…”J”, was an only child, a miracle boy, and he had many dreams and aspirations.  He was a very ambitious 14-year-old, enjoyed soccer, and was an avid reader.  He loved to travel and had been to Japan, Mexico, Costa Rica, and many state in the US, and he loved Disneyland.  He was a pleasure to be around, and he was loved by many.  He loved math, physics, and science.  He was a 4.0 student and was enroute to be valedictorian of his class.  He aspired to be an engineer and hoped someday to be a Noble prize winner.  He loved sea otters, and he had a best friend, Oddy.  He looked forward to Summer Christian Camp, and spending time with his cousins. He also enjoyed summer school and math enrichment, and spending time with his friends.  “J” will be missed every day and remembered forever.”

“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 will aggressively prosecute drunk or drugged drivers in our community and will charge murder when appropriate.  We are hopeful that completion of the criminal case will provide family and friends the space necessary to begin healing.”

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. 

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.