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Suspect in fatal Nevada crash has teen criminal record

April 05, 2013|By Joseph Serna and Ruben Vives
(Beatrice de Gea / Los Angeles…)

An Orange County teen accused of causing a deadly Nevada car crash while drunk was cited for tampering with vehicles, vandalism and associating with a gang in the preceding years, public records show.

Jean Ervin Soriano, 18, reportedly escaped the Youth Guidance Center in Santa Ana on March 1, and authorities didn't find him until Saturday after he allegedly rear-ended a van filled with family members.

Orange County supervisors are now demanding more information about how the probation department handled the case and whether more could have been done to capture him. A warrant for his arrest was issued March 8 in Orange County.

Because Soriano was a juvenile when a court sent him to the center, records about what prompted his sentence were sealed.

The facility is a county youth detention center where offenders are remanded for certain low-level offenses such as drug charges, vandalism and theft, said Ed Harrison, a spokesman for the probation department. The center also treats offenders for substance addiction.

Though the reason for Soriano’s stay at the facility is unclear, DMV and county criminal records show some of his past brushes with the law.

In 2009, when Soriano was 14, he was cited for injuring or tampering with a vehicle or its contents, according to DMV records.

In 2010, two weeks before his 16th birthday, he was cited for vandalism and graffiti in association with a street gang, DMV records show.

He was cited in 2011 for possessing tobacco or tobacco paraphernalia and riding a bicycle at night without lights, according to Orange County court records.

A judge could authorize the release of portions of his juvenile record during a hearing next week.

In the meantime, Soriano is being held at the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas on $3.5-million bail.

He is accused of being behind the wheel of a Dodge Durango that rear-ended a Chevy Astro van carrying seven people about 30 miles south of Mesquite, Nev., early Saturday.

In the hospital after the crash last week, Soriano admitted to police he drank “too many” Budweisers before the accident, according to his arrest report. Authorities discovered beer bottles in the Durango he was driving.

The crash left five members of a family dead and two others injured. All but two of the van's occupants were wearing seat belts, according to authorities.

Soriano and his 23-year-old passenger suffered minor injuries. He was arrested on seven counts of suspicion of driving drunk and killing five people and seriously injuring two others. He also was cited for driving without a license.

Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer said he wants to know how Soriano got out and whether there needs to be better security at such facilities.

Family members of those killed in the crash were stunned to learn that Soriano was a wanted fugitive at the time.

"This changes my view about him," said Elijio Fernandez Jr., who lost three brothers in the crash. "I thought, he's human, he made a mistake, but now I'm really disturbed by this; he was out there where he shouldn't have been."

Fernandez said he wants officials to investigate how Soriano was able to elude capture for so many weeks.

"Either way, justice caught up to him. He won't harm anyone else."

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joseph.serna@latimes.com

twitter.com/josephserna

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