Man facing second-degree murder charge in 2014 Laguna Beach crash that killed an Irvine man

SANTA ANA — A 34-year-old twice-convicted drunken driver made his first court appearance Monday on charges stemming from an alcohol-fueled multiple-vehicle crash in Laguna Beach nearly eight years ago that killed one man and injured several others.

Francisco Acuna Sanchez, formerly of Rancho Santa Margarita, was extradited from Panama and Laguna Beach police served a warrant on the defendant last Wednesday, according to court records.

Sanchez was charged in July 2016 with murder, two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs causing injury and a count of driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit causing injury, with sentencing enhancement allegations of inflicting great bodily injury on two victims who survived. All of those charges except for second-degree murder were dismissed during Sanchez’s appearance in the jail courtroom in Santa Ana on Monday.

Sanchez was ordered to return to court Dec. 15 for a rescheduled arraignment and bail review hearing, according to court records.

His prior DUIs allow prosecutors to upgrade charges in a fatal crash from manslaughter, which includes a finite time in prison, to murder, which carries at least 15 years to life behind bars.

Sanchez pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol April 20, 2010, and again on May 30, 2012, according to court records.

The fatal crash occurred about 1:30 p.m. Jan. 26, 2014, on Pacific Coast Highway near Irvine Cove Drive, police said.

Erik Valencia, who was 29 and lived in Irvine, was killed in the crash. He was a passenger in one of the cars involved.

Police said there were five victims in the crash, but the criminal complaint includes two victims who allegedly sustained serious injuries.

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