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Pre-Plea Report Ordered for Suspected DUI Driver Charged in Fatal Crash on Highway 154

A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge on Thursday ordered a pre-plea report for a man charged with driving drunk and causing a crash that killed two people on Highway 154 in December.

Rigoberto Gracida, 30, of Santa Maria appeared alongside his attorney, Tom Barnard, who requested the pre-plea report.

Gracida has been charged with a felony count of driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury to four people, plus faces several special allegations for causing great bodily injury.

Additionally, he faces a misdemeanor charge for driving with blood alcohol content above the legal limit of .08 percent.

The criminal complaint alleged his blood alcohol content was .10. 

Gracida was arrested after the three-vehicle crash on Highway 154 east of Zaca Station Road on Dec. 10.

The crash occurred when an eastbound Nissan SUV, driven by the defendant, drifted into the westbound lane, where it collided with a Honda Accord driven by Hamilton Dias Bonilla, 35, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The impact caused the Nissan to overturn, and it was struck from behind by a Dodge minivan driven by Aurelio Salvador Zaragoza, 43, the CHP said.

Bonilla and a passenger in the Dodge — Antonia Bautista Santiago, 50 — were declared dead at the scene.

Zaragoza suffered major injuries and two others also were hurt.

Judge John McGregor instructed the Santa Barbara County Probation Department to prepare a pre-plea report, which can be a hint of talks involving a possible plea bargain. Those reports include facts of the case and details about the defendant’s background.

McGregor ordered Gracida, who remains in jail custody, to return to court on May 10, when a preliminary hearing date may be set.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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