VISTA – The 20-year-old man allegedly driving a car that fatally struck a couple walking north of Valley Center pleaded not guilty today, July 10, to charges of gross vehicular manslaughter and DUI causing injury.
Earl Decarlos Smith Jr. was ordered held on $1 million bail.
The Oceanside resident was driving east on Old Castle Road about 6:15 a.m. Sunday when his 2011 Toyota Corolla drifted to the right and struck the couple as they walked with their backs to traffic near Mauka Drive, according to the California Highway Patrol. Both victims died at the scene.
Neighbors said the victims – 79-year-old Carl Henry Ackermann and his 78-year-old wife, Eunice, had been taking a daily stroll down Old Castle Road for 30 years.
Smith faces 15 years in prison if convicted. He will be back in court Aug. 14 for a readiness conference and Sept. 11 for a preliminary hearing.
Elderly Valley Center couple killed during morning walk on Old Castle Road by DUI driver
NORTH COUNTY – A man was jailed on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony driving under the influence after the vehicle he was driving allegedly struck and killed two pedestrians today north of Valley Center.
The 20-year-old driver, later identified as Earl Smith, Jr. of Oceanside, was headed east on Old Castle Road near Mauka Drive in a 2011 Toyota Corolla at about 6:15 a.m. when the vehicle drifted to the right and struck the 79-year-old man and 78-year-old woman, who were walking east with their backs to traffic, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Jim Bettencourt.
A neighbor heard the crash and called 911, authorities said.
Both victims died at the scene, the officer said. Their names were withheld, but they were a married Valley Center couple who were well known in the community for walking in the area, according to Bettencourt and the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Smith was uninjured and was arrested, Bettencourt said.