An Irvine man was charged with murder for a fatal DUI crash that took place just hours after he was released from a hospital following a fentanyl overdose, officials said Thursday.
Luis Marcial Diaz, 21, faces one felony count of murder for the death of 61-year-old Kyu Chen, of Irvine, who was on her way to work just after 4 a.m. Sept. 27 when Diaz crashed into her vehicle, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said.
That day, Diaz ran a red light at the intersection of Sand Canyon Road and Irvine Center Drive as Chen was driving through the intersection, resulting in a crash that killed the woman, according to the DA’s office.
“She was just driving to work and now she is dead,” O.C. District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “And the tragedy of it all, is she didn’t have to die.”
The suspected DUI crash wasn’t Diaz’s first, authorities said.
In 2019, the man was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Huntington Beach. He was charged with driving under the influence of drugs, possession of nitrous oxide and driving without a valid license — all charges he pleaded not guilty to, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Those arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in California can be given a “Watson advisement,” which lets them know that they can be charged with murder if they kill someone while driving under the influence.
“This is a tragedy that should have never happened,” Spitzer said. “Just hours before Mrs. Chen was murdered, doctors managed to save the defendant from overdosing on drugs. Instead of taking that near-death experience to heart, he continued to engage in incredibly dangerous behavior and it cost Mrs. Chen her life.
The man is suspected of taking additional drugs after being released from the hospital, according a spokeswoman from the District Attorney’s Office.
Diaz now faces a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in prison if convicted in the fatal Irvine crash.
“Mr. Diaz showed a complete lack of regard for the lives of others when he chose to get behind the wheel that Monday morning,” Irvine Police Chief Michael Kent said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to Mrs. Chen’s family and we hope they get the justice they deserve for this tragic loss.”
Diaz, who was being held on $1 million bail, is scheduled to be arraigned later Thursday.