An 18-year-old Morgan Hill man is charged with two counts of murder by use of a dangerous weapon—a vehicle—and other felonies in relation to an April 26 traffic collision in which a pair of siblings from San Jose died.
The defendant, Roberto Joseph Garcia, driving a 2017 Honda, was allegedly fleeing from a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy when he ran a red light at Lawrence Expressway and Mitty Way in San Jose about 10pm April 26, according to San Jose Police reports. Traveling northbound on Lawrence, Garcia’s vehicle broadsided a 1999 Toyota Camry that was turning left onto Mitty Way “on a protected green light,” says a police investigation report found in Garcia’s court file.
The collision pushed the Toyota about 250 feet north up Lawrence Expressway, according to police. The vehicle came to rest on its side.
The driver of the Toyota, Philip Nievas, 22, and his sister Precious Nievas, 25, were pronounced dead at the scene, according to authorities. The siblings were San Jose residents, and friends and family members have set up a fundraising site for their funeral expenses. They were driving home from work when the fatal accident occurred, according to the fundraising page on gofundme.com.
“Many describe Precious and Philip to be very kind and down to earth,” says the page. “Precious was very caring for her little siblings and was like a mother figure to them after they lost their mom at a young age. Precious has a sweet smile that many people will not forget. Philip was a quiet person who loved playing video games, but when people get to know him they see that he is a funny and sarcastic person with a very soft heart.”
Garcia briefly exited his Honda after the April 26 collision, but he was later hospitalized with a broken back and broken clavicle, according to the San Jose Police report. A 17-year-old juvenile passenger in Garcia’s car suffered a broken ankle and broken rib.
Garcia has since been transported to the county jail, where he remains in custody on $1.5 million bail, according to the DA’s office. He was arraigned May 4 at the Hall of Justice in San Jose. His next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 4.
In addition to two counts of murder, Garcia is charged with two felony counts of eluding a police officer, two felony counts related to his possession of a loaded firearm, misdemeanor cannabis possession for sale and misdemeanor driving under the influence of marijuana, according to the DA’s office.
Garcia’s juvenile passenger was arrested at the scene on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter, evading an officer and firearms and narcotics charges, according to a press release from the San Jose Police Department. Once released from the hospital, the teen was slated to be booked at Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall. Details about the minor’s charges were not available at press time.
Just before the April 26 accident, a sheriff’s deputy saw Garcia’s Honda make a number of lane changes and a u-turn on Lawrence Expressway without signaling, according to the San Jose Police investigation report. The deputy attempted to make a traffic stop, but Garcia “immediately accelerated away from (the deputy) and ran the red light at the next intersection” at Mitty Way, says the police report. The collision occurred as the Honda crossed through the intersection.
Police searched Garcia’s vehicle and found “several containers and baggies” of marijuana, jars of concentrated cannabis resin, a digital scale, glass bong, vape pens, THC vape cartridges and other paraphernalia, according to the investigation report. Also found in the vehicle were a loaded, unregistered Glock 43 handgun, with five bullets in the magazine.
The police investigation report includes details about a prior traffic arrest of Garcia on April 7, when he was traveling southbound on Highway 101 in Morgan Hill. A sheriff’s deputy pulled him over after observing him repeatedly failing to stay in his lane, and suspected he was driving under the influence of drugs, specifically marijuana.