Driver pleads not guilty to killing mom, 9-year-old in crash
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A driver has pleaded not guilty to killing a 9-year-old girl and her mother in a New Year’s Day crash in Orange County.
KNBC-TV reports that Melvin Branch entered pleas Monday to vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence and other charges.
Branch was arrested after a 1 a.m., four-car pileup in the Garden Grove area. The crash killed 33-year-old Jolene Gardner and her daughter Payton Castillo, who were in a pickup truck heading home to Hawthorne after a New Year’s Eve party.
Due to lack of evidence, Branch was released last Friday without charges being filed. However, the district attorney’s office says it re-arrested him Sunday after obtaining additional information from the California Highway Patrol.
Branch could face more than 20 years in prison if convicted.