A Madera County jury convicted Justin Eugene Rice on Wednesday of three felony counts of second degree murder, three felony counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, one count of felony driving under the influence causing injury, and two misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest, according to District Attorney Michael R. Keitz.
The convictions came following a six-week jury trial in the Madera Superior Court.
Senior Deputy DA Edmund Gill presented the evidence at the trial. On Aug. 20, 2009, Rice, 35, of Ventura, was driving south on State Route 41, when he entered the northbound lane, forcing the oncoming vehicles to swerve to avoid collisions, according to the District Attorney’s Office. One vehicle, carrying five employees of the Chukchansi Resort and Casino, suffered a horrific collision when Rice hit it head-on, causing the deaths of Elena Mendoza, Maria Rodriguez and Estella Frias.
Rice, who was later determined to be under the influence of methamphetamine, was taken to the emergency room at Madera Community Hospital where he tried to escape and fought the officers attempting to restrain him, according to the DA’s Office...