Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
December 3, 2009
Susan Kang Schroeder
UNLICENSED DRUNKEN DRIVER CONVICTED OF KILLING MOTORIST IN HIGH-SPEED CRASH,
CAUSING VICTIM’S CAR TO BURST INTO FLAMES
SANTA ANA – A 22-year-old unlicensed drunken driver was convicted today of killing another motorist in a high-speed crash, causing the victim’s car to burst into flames. Kenneth John McNair, 22, Downey, was found guilty by a jury of one felony count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act with gross negligence while intoxicated and one misdemeanor count of driving without a valid license with a sentencing enhancement for fleeing the scene of a crime. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison at his sentencing on Jan. 29, 2010, in Department C-34, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
On the evening of Nov.15, 2008, McNair consumed alcoholic beverages with a friend at his home in Downey and then took a cab to Downey Brewing Company. The defendant consumed more alcoholic drinks at the bar before taking a cab home. The defendant, who has never been issued a California driver’s license, drove to Sharkeez in Huntington Beach from his home. Upon arriving at the bar, the defendant consumed several more alcoholic beverages before getting into the driver’s seat of his Honda sedan with his friend, who was in the passenger seat, and driving away.
At approximately 1:30 a.m., McNair was driving northbound on Goldenwest Street at speeds between 75 and 80 mph in a 45 mph zone. At the intersection of Goldenwest Street and Edinger Avenue, the defendant crashed into the back of victim Jose Pacheco’s Ford Mustang and side-swiped another vehicle, which were both stopped at a red light. The force of the impact caused by McNair pushed the victim’s car across the intersection, where it came to a stop and exploded in flames. The defendant fled the scene on foot after crashing head-on into a semi-trailer truck on the other side of the intersection. Several witnesses called 9-1-1.
Huntington Beach police arrested the defendant one block from the scene. The defendant displayed objective signs of intoxication including bloodshot and watery eyes, slurred speech, and difficulty standing upright. Almost two hours after the crash, McNair had a blood alcohol of level of .25 percent, over three times the legal limit.
Witnesses and police were unable to rescue Pacheco due to the intense fire that resulted from the crash. The victim burned to death. Pacheco was a 20-year-old college student at California State University, Long Beach.
During the trial, McNair testified that he had no memory of the crash or leaving the scene. His defense argued that the defendant should not be held responsible for fleeing because his intoxication made him unaware that he had hurt someone.
Deputy District Attorney Jason Baez of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.