Man accused in DUI deaths of Bee carrier, wife appears in court

A man accused of being intoxicated when his vehicle struck and killed a husband and wife last weekend in Fresno made his first appearance Wednesday morning in Fresno County Superior Court.

Arraignment for Michael Robert Merritt-Hutchins, 25, of Fresno, was rescheduled for Jan. 3 so his family can have more time to hire a private lawyer. Merritt-Hutchins appeared Wednesday with Jason Sorensen of the Fresno County Public Defender’s Office.

During the brief hearing, Judge Brian Alvarez ordered Merritt-Hutchins to remain in the Fresno County Jail in lieu of $317,000 bail.

Daniel Mendez Sr., 53, a contracted Fresno Bee newspaper carrier, and his wife, Ramona Mendez, 43, were delivering papers in southeast Fresno about 2:45 a.m. Saturday when a vehicle driven by Merritt-Hutchins slammed into their car, authorities said.

The couple was heading east on Kings Canyon Road near Temperance Avenue and might have been driving at a slow speed when the other vehicle rear-ended them at more than 80 mph, authorities said.

Merritt-Hutchins is charged with two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, two counts of driving while intoxicated and causing injury or death and two counts of driving under the influence with .08 percent blood-alcohol level causing an injury or death.

He has no prior criminal history in Fresno County, according to court record.

Funeral arrangements are pending. The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help with expenses. Coworkers of Jasmine Mendez have also set up a GoFundMe account to help the family.

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts