Yucca Valley man convicted of murder in fatal Palm Springs DUI crash

Robert Garcia Jr. is seen here in a Palm Springs Police Department booking photo.

A Yucca Valley man who triggered a collision in Palm Springs while high on drugs was convicted of the murder of one of his passengers Wednesday.

The Indio jury also convicted Robert Garcia Jr., 55, of DUI causing injury and sentence-enhancing allegations of causing bodily injury to multiple victims in connection with the crash near Amado Road and Sunrise Way on January 30, 2017.

The crash killed Garcia’s front-seat passenger, 39-year-old Yucca Valley resident Keyon Parks, while seriously injuring a back-seat passenger and injuring two others in the second vehicle, according to a trial brief filed by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office on September 1.

Superior Court Judge Dale Wells set sentencing for November 5. Garcia is facing 23 years to life in state prison. Wells ordered Garcia to be held without bail at the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio.

According to police, Garcia turned left onto Amado Road from Sunrise Way — directly into the path of an oncoming SUV that struck the passenger side of his car. The SUV’s driver and a passenger suffered moderate injuries, police reported.

During a preliminary hearing at the Larson Justice Center in June 2017, Palm Springs Police Officer Eric Christiansen testified that Garcia admitted taking Tramadol, a painkiller, and smoking marijuana. Marijuana and pipes were also found inside Garcia’s car, which was stipulated by both attorneys to have no mechanical issues at the time of the crash.

The trial brief further alleged that Garcia had traces of methamphetamine in his system when his blood was drawn five hours after the collision.

Christiansen also testified that Garcia performed poorly on several field sobriety tests and exhibited droopy eyelids, constricted pupils, slurred speech, and other indications of intoxication. Garcia told Christiansen that he was lost but could not clearly state what his destination was, according to the officer.

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