A Nassau County grand jury returned an indictment of murder Thursday against a Deer Park man after a on the left his friend dead.
Juan Cruz, 28, of Deer Park, stands accused in the September drunk driving crash after he drove for 12 miles the wrong way on the LIE, reaching speeds of 112 miles per hour, said Nassau District Attorney
The indictment charges Cruz with second-degree murder, two counts of reckless endangerment and the original charges of manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter, all felonies. He faces misdemeanor counts of DWI and reckless driving.
Cruz faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted. Bail was set at $500,000 bond or $250,000 cash. He is due back in court March 10.
The high-speed crash occurred at 4:45 a.m. Sept. 6, 2010, when Cruz drove his 2008 Chrysler Town and Country minivan westbound in the LIE's eastbound HOV lane. Cruz entered the Expressway in the wrong direction in Brentwood, Rice said.
Cruz’s friend, Mauricio Visoso-Ornelas, 28, was in the front passenger seat. Numerous 911 calls were made to police by shocked motorists.
After driving nearly 12 miles in the wrong direction and crossing into Nassau County, Cruz crashed head-on into the center median just west of the Sunnyside Boulevard overpass in Plainview. Cruz later told police that someone had cut him off and claimed he had come from a baby shower.
The impact of the crash cut the van in two, killing Visoso-Ornelas a father of three from Corona, Queens. The vehicle’s crash data recorder, or “black box,” showed that Cruz was travelling up to 112 miles per hour before the crash, Rice said.
Visoso-Ornelas, 28, a construction worker who spent his spare time playing soccer with his kids, was taken to the where he died, authorities said. the Expressway was closed in the area of the crash for eight hours.
“This horrific crash shows just how serious wrong-way, drunk driving incidents can be, and how important it is to address this issue before another tragedy occurs,” Rice said. “This defendant’s reckless decision to drink and drive killed his friend and endangered every other driver on the road. I will continue to push for the toughest charges and stiffest penalties against drunk drivers who kill.”
Assistant District Attorney Brendan Ahern is prosecuting the case for the DA’s Office.
Cruz is represented by Greg Grizopolos of Garden City, who could not be immediately reached for comment.