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Wrong-Way Driver Was on Probation

Court: Authorities say he has several convictions. He's accused of killing another motorist on the Foothill Freeway after driving against traffic for nearly 10 miles.

August 21, 1997|JON STEINMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

GLENDALE — The wrong-way driver who allegedly killed a motorist on the Foothill Freeway has a history of drug use and was scheduled to appear in court to face a felony drug possession charge hours before the crash, authorities said Wednesday.

At the time of the crash Tuesday morning, Alexito Manuva, 34, of West Covina, was also on probation. He had been convicted three times, of charges ranging from narcotics to battery and child-abuse, according to court records.

Most recently, he had been arrested in February for possession of a controlled substance. Manuva was free on $10,000 bail and was scheduled to appear for arraignment Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.

"He didn't show," said Jesse Cortez Jr., a deputy district attorney familiar with the case. "There was a warrant issued for his arrest today because he never arrived."

Investigators were trying to determine why and how the crash occurred. One said police were trying to determine whether Manuva might have been under the influence of drugs, or was suicidal. Drug tests were conducted by a hospital Wednesday, but California Highway Patrol officials declined to release the results, pending completion of more tests.

Although scheduled to appear at the downtown Los Angeles criminal courthouse Tuesday morning, Manuva was miles away.

At 11:50 a.m., Manuva's car, traveling west in eastbound lanes, struck a car driven by Frank Rodriguez, authorities say.

Rodriguez, 20, of Newhall, was pronounced dead soon after the head-on collision just west of the Lowell Avenue exit of the Foothill Freeway in Glendale. There was so much debris that officers could not determine whether either driver had braked.

Manuva, who was airlifted to Huntington Memorial Hospital, underwent surgery for blunt chest trauma Tuesday. Hospital officials refused to disclose his condition, saying Manuva had asked that no information be released.

Manuva was discharged from the hospital Wednesday morning, said Toni Miller, hospital spokeswoman. He is being held in a Los Angeles County Jail hospital ward, said Officer Gretchen Jacobs, spokeswoman for the CHP.

CHP officers believe Manuva drove nearly 10 miles in the wrong direction. Two other cars were damaged and motorists were terrified, according to CHP investigators.

Manuva has a record dating back at least three years. In May 1994 in Citrus Municipal Court in West Covina, he was convicted of battery and possession of a controlled substance and sentenced to three years' probation; he served 90 days in jail.

One year later, in the same courthouse, Manuva was convicted of being under the influence of a controlled substance and sentenced to another three-year probation and made to pay a $100 fine; he served 180 days in jail, according to court records.

Manuva was arrested again in January for "willful cruelty" to a child, whose age was not available. He was convicted in March and sentenced to three years' probation, fined $100, and required to complete a parenting class.

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