The Kern County District Attorney's office will charge one of the suspects in Sunday evening's street-racing fatality with an additional count: second-degree murder.
Bakersfield Police Department officials announced Tuesday afternoon that, upon further review of suspect Ronald Dean Pierce Jr.'s alleged "reckless behavior" and other circumstances, the D.A. would add the additional charge.
Maria Blaney Navarro, 58, of Bakersfield, was killed when another driver, allegedly racing a third vehicle late Sunday afternoon in southwest Bakersfield, struck her minivan, sending her and two children into the path of an oncoming crane truck. She was identified by the Kern County Coroner's office Tuesday morning.
Her two young passengers were injured but survived.
The wreck happened at dusk Sunday afternoon on one of the primary entry roads into the Seven Oaks residential development. A man apparently engaged in a street race on Old River Road, between Ming Avenue and White Oak Avenue, less than a mile west of The Marketplace shopping center, lost control and struck Navarro's vehicle at approximately 4:45 p.m.
A red Mustang, allegedly driven by Pierce, 50, and a gray Dodge Ram were involved in the street race, according to Bakersfield police. Upon impact, Navarro's van, which was not involved in the race, was sent spinning out of control and into oncoming traffic, where it was then broadsided by a crane truck, killing her.
Police arrested Pierce on suspicion of driving under the influence causing injury, gross vehicle manslaughter while intoxicated, reckless driving, reckless driving causing injury and engaging in speed contest, police said. Add murder to that list.
Two juveniles in the van were taken to the hospital with moderate to major injuries. The crane truck driver was not injured and remained at the scene.
Pierce, who was booked into Kern County Jail Monday morning, was to be arraigned Tuesday, but the proceeding was put off until Dec. 4.
The second suspect, said to be driving the Dodge Ram, has not been apprehended. Possible charges are therefore still pending.
The case will be submitted to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office.