LAS VEGAS (AP) - The top prosecutor in Las Vegas said Wednesday he’s upping the ante in criminal cases against motorists suspected of causing fatal crashes while under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both - by filing second-degree murder charges more often.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson expressed frustration on a day he upgraded charges in separate cases against two men jailed pending court appearance on accusations they had more than 2 1/2 times the legal limit of alcohol in their blood when they crashed in recent weeks, leaving a total of three people dead and several injured.
“It has to stop,” Wolfson said. “People are getting killed on our roadways because of reckless disregard by persons driving erratically and at excessive speed causing carnage while impaired.”
The filings brought to five the number of impaired motorist murder prosecutions Wolfson’s office has filed since May 2017. One case is due for trial next month.
A 2018 prosecution led to a guilty plea by a 26-year-old woman now serving 26-to-65 years in prison for second-degree murder in a crash that killed an 8-year-old boy and badly injured his parents outside a school.
In one of the latest cases, Kevin Raspperry is charged with killing one person and badly injuring another in a seven-vehicle wreck at a busy crossroad Oct. 27 that also involved a transit bus.
Raspperry, 35, of Henderson, who had prior driving under the influence convictions in 2013 and 2017, also tested positive for methamphetamine, ecstasy and marijuana in his system, Wolfson said.
Raspperry is scheduled to enter a plea on Tuesday on 12 felony charges including murder. His attorney, Craig Mueller, was in court and unavailable for immediate comment.
Aaron Kruse, 24, of Las Vegas was charged Wednesday with drunken driving, reckless driving, killing an animal and two counts of second-degree murder in a fiery crash last Saturday that Wolfson said killed two people and a dog in a car that burst into flames.
Kruse is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Nov. 26. The name of a public defender in his case was not immediately available.
Wolfson said Kruse was driving at more than 115 mph when he crashed into the back of a sedan.
Ronald Leavell is due for trial Dec. 2 after pleading not guilty to murder, driving under the influence and reckless driving in a high-speed crash that killed Gerardo Villicana Jr., 26, in May 2017.
Leavell, 50, is charged with driving 125 mph (201 kph) in a residential Las Vegas neighborhood while under the influence of marijuana.
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