The driver involved in a late summer fiery Knights Ferry crash that claimed the life of a Modesto man was arrested on Friday, March 6 and now faces murder charges for causing the collision.
Rafi Jack Mitri, 23, was arrested at his home in Modesto and appeared in court on Monday, March 9 to answer murder charges in the killing of 81-year-old Frank Garcia of Modesto, who died in the crash when his Ford Ranger was hit head-on by a Hyundai Accent driven by Mitri.
Last summer, on Tuesday, Aug. 26, emergency personnel responded to a fatal injury accident midafternoon along Highway 108 near Lover’s Leap. Information from the scene when it was reported indicated there was one confirmed fatality in the crash that occurred about 2:30 p.m.
Two others involved in the crash were listed as ‘critical’ when transported out by ambulances. At least one victim was flown out via air ambulance and authorities reported victims had serious burns due to the crash and a vehicle fire.
The rescue operation took about an hour and traffic in the area didn’t start to flow again until about 4 p.m.
The CHP investigation showed that Mitri was traveling east at a high speed and had passed at least one car when he was again attempting to pass and crossed over a double yellow line on a curve. He then collided head-on with the Ford Ranger driven by Garcia.
The force from the collision caused Garcia’s Ford Ranger to go into a grass shoulder, trapping both occupants. Witnesses stopped to assist and used a pry-bar to remove the occupants before the Ranger caught on fire. Witnesses provided medical aid until the arrival of medics.
In addition to murder charges, Mitri is also facing felony vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving charges for the injuries to Garcia’s passenger, Richard Martinez, 72, of Oakdale.
The passenger in Mitri’s Hyundai, Amanda McSweeny, 23, of Oakdale was also seriously injured resulting in additional criminal charges filed by the District Attorney to Mitri for personally inflicting great bodily injury.
At the time of the fatal accident, Mitri was on felony probation for possession of marijuana for sale and selling marijuana to a minor under the age of 14. He is facing additional charges for violating his probation.
Mitri’s arraignment was continued until March 16. He is currently being held in Stanislaus County jail without bail.