Crime

Driver accused of blowing through stop sign, killing 8-year-old, will stand trial

Karmjit Singh, 35, was previously convicted of driving under the influence in 2016, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Karmjit Singh, 35, was previously convicted of driving under the influence in 2016, according to the California Highway Patrol. FRESNO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

A Visalia man accused of crashing his BMW into a family’s vehicle and killing their 8-year-old son will stand trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Karmjit Singh, 35, is charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and driving with a suspended or revoked license. He faces up to six years in prison if found guilty on both charges. Singh’s preliminary hearing was held in Judge Arlan Harrell’s courtroom.

The fatal crash happened just after 10 p.m. Feb. 23 at the intersection of Bethel and Rose avenues. Scott Martzen, wife Megan and their 8-year-old son were on their way home from a birthday party in Fresno when Singh’s sedan ran a stop sign and smashed into them.

Scott Martzen testified he was traveling east on Rose when he saw headlights in the corner of his eye rapidly heading towards him. He tried to avoid a collision by swerving left, but it was too late.

“I felt an impact on the right side and then I blacked out,” he said. “I woke up and remember people pulling us out of the car.”

Trying to hold back tears, Martzen recalled regaining consciousness and calling out to his son. He looked in the back seat and was horrified at what he saw.

“He wasn’t moving,” he said.

A witness testified Wednesday that he saw Singh’s BMW a few minutes earlier that night on Highway 99 traveling at a high rate of speed.

Ramiro Elizondo Jr. testified that he, his fiancé and his son were on their way home from Disneyland when a dark-colored luxury car was approaching him at a high rate of speed. Elizondo said he was driving about 70 mph in the right-hand lane when the car blew past him in the left lane.

“He passed me up going close to 100 miles an hour,” Elizondo said.

Within seconds, the car was gone, he said. Minutes later, he came across the car again, but this time it was sitting in a ditch, its front end was smashed as dust hung in the air and debris was scattered about, Elizondo said.

He pulled over and ran to the dark sedan, a black BMW. He could hear the driver moaning and groaning. He helped the driver out and identified him in court as Singh.

“I was asking if he was OK, if he needed help,” Elizondo testified.

Under cross examination by Singh’s attorney, Sam Salhab, Elizondo said he didn’t get a good look at the driver of the dark sedan he saw on Highway 99 and also that was he not an expert in judging the speed of cars on the freeway.

Salhab said the issue of how fast Singh was driving is still uncertain. A California Highway Patrol officer testified that a full report on the accident is expected to be released later this month. Officer Mario Ochoa also said officers noticed the smell of alcohol on Singh’s breath and he had red, watery eyes. Singh said he had one to two beers earlier that day.

The Fresno County District Attorney’s office originally charged Singh with DUI but later dropped the charge after a blood test showed Singh’s blood alcohol concentration at .017, well below the legal limit of .08.

Singh does have a prior DUI conviction and was on probation at the time of the collision.

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