Murder charged in Adenhart crash

Updated: April 11, 2009, 8:08 PM ET
Associated Press

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- A 22-year-old man was charged with three murder counts and drunken driving Friday in the crash that killed Los Angeles Angels rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart and two others.

Andrew Thomas Gallo ran a red light in his minivan early Thursday and broadsided a car carrying Adenhart and three friends, police said.

"At the time of the crash, Mr. Gallo's blood-alcohol content is estimated to be almost three times the legal limit," Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said.

Gallo could receive almost 55 years to life in prison if convicted of all charges, Rackauckas said.

Adenhart died at a hospital, hours after pitching six scoreless innings in his season debut against Oakland. He was remembered before the start of Friday night's Angels game against the Boston Red Sox.

"This Angel and his two friends were too young to be sent to heaven but the defendant selfishly and recklessly [got] behind the wheel after getting drunk. They didn't have a choice. Bad decision, blink of an eye, five lives ended, including the defendant's life is wrecked," Rackauckas said at a news conference.

Gallo will likely be assigned a public defender at his first court appearance, scheduled for Monday. He is being held on $1 million bail.

Gallo also was charged with driving under the influence causing injury, and driving with a blood-alcohol level over .08 percent causing injury, with a sentencing enhancement that he personally inflicted great bodily injury.

In addition, he was charged with fleeing the scene of a traffic accident causing death or injury.

Fullerton police Lt. Kevin Hamilton said homicide detectives interviewed Gallo for nearly four hours Thursday. "There was a lot to talk about," Hamilton said, without disclosing details.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Gallo
Courtesy Fullerton Police DepartmentPolice apprehended Andrew Gallo half an hour after he fled the scene of the crash.

Police initially said Gallo lived in Riverside, based on the address listed on his driver's license. Gallo, however, gave police an address in San Gabriel when he was booked and officers were investigating that location Friday.

After Wednesday night's game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Adenhart went out with his friends. They were driving through neighboring Fullerton when their car was hit at an intersection.

Henry Pearson, 25, of Manhattan Beach, and the driver, 20-year-old Courtney Stewart of Diamond Bar, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Another passenger, 24-year-old Jon Wilhite of Manhattan Beach, was taken off the critical list Saturday morning and upgraded to serious condition. Spokesman John Murray at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center said Wilhite remained in intensive care.

"His vital signs were stable. Yesterday and Thursday they were unstable," Murray said Saturday after speaking to Wilhite's attending physician.

Wilhite's uncle said in a statement the family's thoughts were with the families of Adenhart and the other two people killed.

"We are also overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support we have received since this senseless act of violence and ask for your continued prayers for Jon's recovery," Charles Wilhite wrote.

According to court records reviewed by The Associated Press, Gallo pleaded guilty to drunken driving in 2006 in San Bernardino. He was sentenced to two days in jail, three years of probation, a $1,374 fine and a four-month alcohol treatment program, court records show. He didn't serve any jail time, however, because he received credit for time served.

A judge also restricted his driving privileges for three months, allowing him to commute only to and from work and his treatment program.

The district attorney, however, said Gallo's license had been suspended since 2006. Assistant District Attorney David Linden Brent said it was not unusual for the California Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a stricter suspension after an administrative hearing.

Court records show Gallo violated some terms of his probation, causing it to be extended by a year, to 2010.

San Bernardino County Deputy Public Defender Maria LaCorte, who represented Gallo in the 2006 drunken driving case, did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.

Hamilton said Gallo was arrested for public intoxication in March 2007 and convicted of disturbing the peace in January.

Court records show Gallo pleaded guilty to possession of less than one ounce of marijuana in April 2007, and was convicted of failure to wear a seat belt in 2006. He also had a minor driving infraction several years ago, court records show.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press