Luis Serrano Garcia pleaded not guilty Wednesday to vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run in connection with a Nov. 19 collision in downtown Fresno that killed an elderly woman in a motorized chair.
Garcia, 51, speaking through an interpreter, said nothing other than entering the plea in Fresno County Superior Court. He also faces charges of felony theft in an unrelated case. His next court appearance will be Dec. 2. His court-appointed attorney, Roberto Dulce, said he looked forward to “our day in court.”
Bail was set at $20,000 in the manslaughter case and $10,000 in the theft case. Steve Wright, of the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, said $20,000 is the normal bail amount in a manslaughter case. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said this month that bail amounts in the county may be too low, because many bail bond firms are setting rates of 5 percent or lower. Dyer said he planned to meet with court and district attorney officials to determine if bail schedules should be increased.
The collision in which Amelia Whisnand, 80, died took place about 3:30 p.m. as a white van was westbound on Stanislaus Street approaching Fulton Street. Whisnand was struck by the van and the driver stepped out of the vehicle, looked at the victim and fled. A downtown surveillance camera recorded the collision.
The next day, an employee with the Fresno Police Department spotted what looked like the van in the same area, called police and followed it to Manchester Center, where Garcia was arrested.