MARTINEZ — A man arrested and charged with four counts of murder in a horrific collision on Interstate 80 last year had a blood alcohol level at nearly twice the legal limit, police testimony revealed.
Fred Lowe, 48, of Sacramento, was found to have a blood alcohol level of .14 when he was tested roughly seven hours after he allegedly drove his blue Mercedes into a white Nissan containing two teens and three adults, all family members.
Under state law, a blood alcohol level of .08 and above is considered legally drunk.
New details of the Nov. 25, 2017, crash were made public at Lowe’s Aug. 7 preliminary hearing, where a judge ordered him to stand trial on several serious felony counts, including four murder charges and drunken driving with prior convictions, causing great bodily injury.
Daryl Horn, 50, and his son Joe, 14, both of Napa, and their relatives, Troy Biddle, 52, and Baden Biddle, 13, of Bainbridge Island, Washington, were all killed in the crash as they headed east on I-80 toward Napa.
The lone survivor from the Nissan was the driver, Jared Horn, a UC Berkeley student and opening day starter for the Cal Bears this year.
Other drivers told police they saw the blue Mercedes speeding and driving erratically near the San Pablo Dam Road exit. The Mercedes collided with the Nissan in the carpool lane.
The Nissan crashed into the median and was catapulted over it, into westbound traffic. It landed on its roof and began to spin as westbound cars crashed into it, causing multiple injuries.
Jared Horn would later tell police he first became aware of the Mercedes when he heard his father, Daryl Horn, say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” and saw headlights on the passenger side of the car. He felt the impact a moment later, according to police testimony.
As officers arrived, Jared Horn told them he had four family members still trapped in the car, police testified.
All four were declared dead at the scene.
The Mercedes, meanwhile, despite sustaining major damage, exited the freeway and disappeared. It was discovered in El Sobrante on Barranca Street, near San Pablo Dam Road. Multiple witnesses saw Lowe about 200 yards from the parked car, California Highway Patrol officers testified.
One resident on the block asked Lowe if he wanted him to call 911, and Lowe replied, “No, I’m OK,” the resident testified. Later, Lowe was seen getting a plastic bag out of the trunk of the Mercedes and walking toward a nearby shopping center, where Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputies ultimately found and arrested him.
Police described Lowe as “lethargic, mumbling, saying very little,” and smelling like alcohol. When officers detained him he went limp, and was placed in a wheelchair. After arriving at the hospital, Lowe “began to thrash around and was also verbally abusive toward hospital staff,” who were attempting to perform a CT scan, CHP Officer Thomas Swarts testified.
Prosecutors also brought in evidence of Lowe’s prior DUI convictions in 2011 and 2012. In order to prove murder in a fatal DUI case, prosecutors must establish that the driver should have known his actions had a high potential to kill someone.
Lowe’s attorney, Sung Ae Choi, argued that there was not enough evidence to show Lowe’s alleged actions rose to the level of murder. Judge David Goldstein disagreed and held Lowe to answer on the charges.
The murder counts are brought under the second-degree theory, which means that Lowe, if convicted, would face life with no chance for parole until after 15 years for each charge.
Lowe remains in custody in lieu of $4.2 million bail. His arraignment, where he is likely to plead not guilty, is scheduled for Monday.