Driver convicted of manslaughter in North County Christmas Eve crash

May 26, 2017

A San Luis Obispo County jury convicted a Las Vegas truck driver of four counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence for the deaths of four San Miguel residents in a 2014 Christmas Eve crash. Philip Ken Trujillo now faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

On Dec. 24, 2014, Trujillo was returning to his Las Vegas home when he tried to turn left off Highway 101 into a truck stop at Wellsona Road north of Paso Robles. Trujillo’s semi collided with an oncoming minivan.

The crash killed Crystal Lee Reuck, 22; David Castillo, 42; Karen Szasz, 45; and Taylor Swarthout, 22. Reuck, who was driving the minivan, was reportedly under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the crash. However, evidence of Reuck’s intoxication was excluded from the trial.

When Trujillo attempted to turn left onto Wellsona Road, he made the turn at an estimated 2 mph. Two cars headed southbound managed to avoid Trujillo’s semi.

But, prosecutors said Reuck pulled his big rig in front of an oncoming vehicle.

While police investigated the collision, Trujillo was reportedly overheard taking directions on his cell phone about how to erase the truck’s black box.

Closing arguments in Trujillo’s trial concluded on Wednesday. The jury deliberated Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning before delivering a verdict of guilty on all four counts Trujillo faced.

Trujillo’s sentencing is scheduled for June 22.

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The DA does not want truth just conviction. Does not matter if you are innocent OR not.

Two drivers managed to avoid any collision with this big rig.My question is, “could this have been due to their both not driving too fast and impaired on METH”?

I strongly suspect this will be appealed

Our local DA seems to think that the whole truth was out the door here. While the big rig driver screwed up, he wasn’t speeding on meth. So I guess meth and driving is ok. Lame.

“But, prosecutors said Reuck pulled his big rig in front of an oncoming vehicle.”

Wasn’t Reuck driving the minivan?

CCN, please clarify!

Why was the minivan driver’s meth intoxication with held from the trial?

The news stories at the time said that the very drugged up driver was doing about 80mph at the time of impact. There were no skid marks before the point of impact. All four who died were locals who knew the road and the intersection. Based on what I heard through the grapevine, the driver had some serious personal issues.

The intersection is dangerous. It is also well lit, with very long sight lines from either direction on 101. Was it a suicide that took out the other occupants? There is no rational reason that a driver coming southbound on 101 would T-bone a tractor trailer at 80 plus miles per hour at that intersection, with no skid marks.

The toxicology report is going to come as news to the jurors. That isn’t right.

The truck driver, by his own actions in trying to erase the data recorder, set himself up for the conviction.