MERCED — A 22-year-old man accused of driving while intoxicated and causing a Winton Way crash that killed one man was charged with second-degree murder Wednesday morning.
Edgar Tapia Madrigal of Winton was arrested after the Nov. 18 two-car crash that killed 27-year-old Matthew Frisk of Atwater.
During a brief court hearing Wednesday, Judge Mark Bacciarini granted a motion by the prosecution to charge Madrigal with second-degree murder.
Madrigal was already facing a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter, in addition to a charge of driving on a suspended license. If convicted, he could face 15 years to life in prison.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Serratto said many factors were included in the prosecution's decision to file the murder charge.
Among those factors, Serratto said Madrigal already had a DUI conviction on his record. Madrigal's blood-alcohol content following the fatal crash was more than 0.23 percent -- about three times the state's legal limit of 0.08 percent, Serratto said.
Serratto said that aspects of the case remain under investigation.
For example, Serratto said it's unknown how fast the defendant was traveling. The California Highway Patrol's Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team is still looking at the case, Serratto said.
The defendant's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Tony Green, said he couldn't elaborate about the case, saying there's still much investigation to be done on both sides.
Still, Green said there are questions about whether his client was responsible for the crash. "There is evidence the person who died may have been the primary person who caused the accident," Green said.
When asked about Green's comment, Serratto said that details of the crash remain "sketchy" and that he's awaiting the completion of the investigative report.
Serratto said he hasn't seen any statements from witnesses who saw the crash take place. "But I think there is certainly enough (evidence) to justify the charges," Serratto said.
Jerry Frisk, 37, the victim's older brother, said the defendant should never have been driving, having a suspended license and a prior DUI. "If he would have never been in the vehicle to begin with, there would be no accident. Period," Frisk said.
Friend remembers victim
Ana Luzania, a longtime friend of Matthew Frisk, wept in court during the hearing. She described the victim as a fun-loving family man with a penchant for fixing electronics and computers. Jerry Frisk said his brother was designing his own websites by age 10.
The victim was the father of an 8-year-old boy, Luzania said.
According to preliminary reports made by the CHP, about 2 p.m. on the day of the crash, Madrigal was driving north on Winton Way in a 1996 Honda Civic as he was approaching Gertrude Avenue.
Frisk was driving a 1997 Nissan Sentra west on Gertrude Avenue and crossed Winton Way. It's unknown if Frisk halted for the stop sign posted on Gertrude Avenue at Winton Way, according to the CHP.
Madrigal's Honda hit the left front door of Frisk's Sentra, which then slid across the southbound lane of Winton Way to the northeast, wiht the right rear of the car striking a metal pole on the west shoulder.
The Honda came to a rest on Winton Way. There were no passengers in either car.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.