Man with 2 DUI convictions found guilty of killing 77-year-old grandmother in San Juan Capistrano wrong-way crash

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A man with two prior drunk driving convictions was found guilty Wednesday of striking and killing a 77-year-old woman, and seriously injuring her boyfriend, when he crossed into oncoming traffic in San Juan Capistrano, officials announced Thursday.

Edward James Nani, 41, of Lake Forest, was convicted by a jury of one felony count of second-degree murder, one felony count of driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury, one felony count of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more, and two felony enhancements of inflicting great bodily injury, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

The jury deliberated for less than two hours before returning with guilty verdicts on all counts, the DA’s office noted.

Around 8:30 p.m. on March 31, 2018, Nani was driving on the Ortega Highway when another motorist noticed his erratic driving, including crossing into oncoming traffic, and started recording him, the DA’s office said. That person called 911 to report a drunken driver, telling the dispatcher the motorist was going to kill someone.

Amparo Castellon Lopez, 77, and her boyfriend, Jose Robert Pacheco, 74, were on their way home from visiting Lopez’s daughter and grandchildren when they were hit by Nani’s car as he crossed into oncoming traffic, officials said.

Lopez was killed and Pacheco suffered a broken arm, leg, pelvis and ribs.

Nani has previously been convicted of driving under the influence twice, once in 2002 and again in 2010.

Drivers convicted of a DUI in California are required to be given a Watson advisement, which informs them that if they kill someone while driving under the influence, they can be charged with murder, the DA’s office noted. Nani received the Watson advisement when he pled guilty in 2010 to misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence and driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more.

“This individual repeatedly demonstrated that he had no regard for human life and it was only a matter of time before he killed someone by getting behind the wheel intoxicated,” O.C. District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a written statement. “Getting behind the wheel while intoxicated or high or drugs is a choice and it can be a deadly choice. With bars and restaurants back open for business following the pandemic, it is more important than ever to make good choices when you drink or do drugs. If you make the choice to get behind the wheel and you kill someone while impaired, you could be charged with murder.”  

Nani is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 13, and faces a maximum sentence of 21 years to life in prison.

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