MARTINEZ — A man arrested in connection with a deadly hit-and-run crash that killed a Napa father and his 14-year-old son was charged Wednesday with four counts of murder, according to county prosecutors.
In addition to the murder charges, Sacramento resident Fred Lowe, 47, faces charges of drunken driving and felony hit and run, on top of several enhancement charges that could add to his sentence. And court records revealed that Lowe has previous convictions for driving under the influence, and a prior strike related to a robbery conviction in Solano County.
Lowe was arrested after he allegedly crashed a blue Mercedes into a white Nissan sedan while going eastbound on Interstate 80 near the San Pablo Dam Road exit around 8:10 p.m. Saturday. The Nissan lost control and went over the center divide and into the westbound lanes, where it overturned.
The four victims were passengers in the Nissan and were related to Jared Horn, a UC Berkeley sophomore from Napa who pitches for Cal’s baseball team and was driving his family back from a father-son basketball tournament. His father, Daryl Horn, 50, 14-year-old brother, Joe, uncle Troy Biddle, 52, and cousin Baden Biddle, 13, of Bainbridge Island, Washington, all died at the scene of the crash.
Jared Horn was the only one in his car to survive the crash. He was hospitalized with serious injuries but returned home Sunday, police said.
On Tuesday night, friends of the Horns held a candlelight vigil in north Napa and walked to the Horn home to show their support for the grieving family. Many were members of Napa Little League or students at Redwood Middle School where Joe Horn was a student
Lowe immediately drove from the scene, but Contra Costa Sheriff’s Deputies recognized his car and arrested him a short time later, authorities said. He was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, but prosecutor Derek Butts — who filed the charges Wednesday afternoon — said Lowe’s history of driving drunk, as well as “the nature of the collision and his driving prior to it, and the flight from the scene, and the high alcohol content in the defendant’s blood,” all added up to murder.
“That all showed what we look for, which is such a high degree of recklessness that it displays implied malice, which supplies the necessary mental state for a second-degree murder,” Butts said.
Murder charges are uncommon but not unheard of in cases involving a fatal car crash. The standard for a murder charge in a DUI crash was set by the California Supreme Court in 1983, in a ruling over a 1979 homicide where the defendant drove drunk through city streets at twice the posted speed limit, and ran a red light before colliding with a car and killing two people at the next intersection.
To prove murder, prosecutors must establish that the driver should have known his actions had a high potential to kill someone, experts say.
Authorities say the collision was one of the most deadly in Contra Costa’s history, but crash statistics weren’t immediately available. The county’s worst fatal crash happened in 1976, when a school bus full of honor students from Yuba City overturned while getting off the freeway in Martinez, resulting in the deaths of 28 children and one adult.
Lowe remains in jail on $4.2 million bail, according to jail records.