Murder Charges Filed In Deadly California Commuter Rail Crash

GLENDALE, Calif. (AP) -- Prosecutors filed potential death-penalty multiple murder charges against the man who allegedly caused two commuter trains to collide when he drove a vehicle onto rail tracks in a suicide attempt.

Juan Manuel Alvarez, 25, was charged with 10 counts of murder in a complaint that was to be amended following the discovery of an 11th body in the mangled Metrolink trains that smashed together early Wednesday.

Prosecutors also alleged a special circumstance of murder by train derailment. A special circumstance makes capital punishment a possibility, but prosecutors did not immediately decide whether to seek the death penalty.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said Thursday prosecutors were evaluating Alvarez's mental state in regard to the special-circumstance allegation, but he asserted that it was no defense to the charges.

''His despondency doesn't move me,'' Cooley said. ''The mere fact that he was a little upset or despondent doesn't mean he has a defense for anything. It may actually work to support our case.''

Alvarez's state of mind, while not providing a motive, could show intent to commit a crime, Cooley said. He noted that a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity has a very high standard of proof.

Alvarez, who authorities say had slashed his wrists and stabbed himself at some point during his suicide attempt, remained hospitalized Thursday, forcing postponement of his arraignment to Friday.

Officials initially described Alvarez's wounds as superficial, but district attorney's spokeswoman Jane Robison said ''they were apparently more serious than that, according to his doctor.''

Alvarez, who had been ordered by a court to stay away from his family after his wife alleged he abused drugs and threatened them, allegedly triggered the deadly train crashes in a suicide attempt about 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Authorities say he drove a sport utility vehicle onto tracks used by Southern California's regional Metrolink commuter rail system in suburban Glendale just north of downtown Los Angeles.

He then changed his mind and left the car, which was struck by train heading to Los Angeles, police said.

That train derailed, struck a parked freight train and jackknifed, striking and derailing another Metrolink heading in the opposite direction. In addition to the deaths, more than 180 people were injured.

Authorities still had missing-persons reports late Wednesday, but all were accounted for by Thursday morning and firefighters ended recovery efforts.

Glendale police began a crime-scene investigation, collecting forensic evidence for the prosecution, using laser measuring devices to create a digital map of the wreckage. Sgt. Tom Lorenz said the process would take several hours before railroad companies could begin moving heavy wreckage.

Court documents show that Alvarez's estranged wife, Carmelita Alvarez, obtained a restraining order against him in December, requiring him to keep away from her, their 3-year-old son and other family members.

''He is using drugs and has been in and out of rehab twice,'' she said in asking for the restraining order. ''He threatened to take our kid away and to hurt my family members.''

Carmelita Alvarez, who went into seclusion shortly after the crash, also had told the court her husband's drug use was triggering hallucinations.

Separately, a suicidal man who parked his sport utility vehicle on railroad tracks in Orange County was arrested early Thursday, said Irvine police Cmdr. Dave Freedland, declining to say if it was a copycat situation. The man drove off when police spotted him and, after a chase, a dispatcher talked him out of suicide during a cell phone call.

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