MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A 22-year-old man is charged with more than 20 counts of both criminal vehicular homicide and criminal vehicular operation in a rollover crash that killed one person last November.
Authorities were dispatched at about 2:27 a.m. on Nov. 14, 2013 to the 300 block of Bernard Street in West St. Paul on a report of a crash in front of a house.
When officers arrived, they found debris all over the roadway and a man face down in the road.
The man was later identified as 21-year-old Robert Joseph Espinoza-Blaeser. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Witnesses told police they woke up to a loud noise outside, went to the window and saw a white SUV stuck on the fence in their front yard. They said they saw the vehicle rocking in an attempt to get off the fence and once free, it left the scene driving east on Bernard Street East.
Police say Espinoza-Blaeser was ejected from the SUV and left in the road when officers arrived.
Officers later tracked down a severely damaged white Chevrolet Blazer parked in the driveway of a home on the 400 block of East Roeller Avenue. Authorities spoke with a 20-year-old man, with blood on his clothes, outside the home. The man, who police say was visibly upset, said he was not the driver but continued shouting, “He rolled my vehicle!”
When officers asked who he was talking about, he said Jon Devereaux was driving his Blazer at the time of the crash.
Officers found Devereaux, 22, of West St. Paul, at his apartment and brought him and the witness into custody.
The witness told police they had been drinking at a friend’s house and Devereaux was driving his car because he was too drunk (he said he had four or five shots within an hour and a half). He said Devereaux was messing around and rolled the wheel “very lightly” and flipped the car. He said they all rolled out of the vehicle, then he got into his car and drove it from the accident to his house. He said everyone else ran.
Devereaux initially told police he didn’t remember driving a vehicle, he only remembered leaving McDonald’s and then being at home.
Devereaux’s mother asked officers if she could speak to him but was only allowed to pass him a note. After Devereaux read the note, he told officers he wanted to tell the truth — and that what he said previously wasn’t the truth.
He told police he was driving the vehicle, lost control and the vehicle rolled over. He told police he had too much to drink and knows he shouldn’t have been driving.
Another witness, who was seated in the rear passenger’s side seat in the accident, told police Devereaux was drinking a beer and swaying all over the yard as they were heading to the vehicle. He said Devereaux demanded to drive. Once on the road, the witness told police Devereaux was going more than 60 mph and sped through a red light. He said he and others told him to slow down but he laughed and responded, “if the cops come, I’m runnin’.”
He said Devereaux started to weave from left to right using the entire roadway, continuing to laugh, when he lost control and the vehicle rolled over. The witness said his head broke a window, knocking him unconscious and when he came to, he heard Devereaux tell another victim, “Oh, my bad, you better not snitch.”
Investigators discovered that in total, eight occupants were in the vehicle at the time of the crash. The witness was treated at United Hospital for a fracture, head injury chest pain and a contusion to his leg. All other victims suffered lacerations, cuts, scrapes and bruises in the crash.
Police say Devereaux had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.12 after a blood sample was taken around 6:39 a.m. on Nov. 14.
He is charged with 18 counts of criminal vehicle operation resulting in substantial bodily harm, including charges for being under the influence and for leaving the scene, and three counts of criminal vehicle homicide, including for negligence while under the influence of alcohol and for leaving the scene of the accident.