An Orem man charged with hitting and killing two BYU students was ordered Thursday to stand trial on two charges of manslaughter, a second-degree felony.
A Provo judge also ordered Caesar Castellon-Flores, 21, to stand trial on a charge of aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, for his involvement in a crash on Oct. 15, 2021. Police say he was speeding and driving without a current license at the time of the crash.
Three women were in a Chevy Malibu making a left turn onto State Street when a Jeep Cherokee tried to speed through the intersection after the traffic light turned yellow and hit their car, according to police who testified at a preliminary hearing Thursday.
Hailee York and Ashlyn Hanzon, both passengers in the car, died from blunt force injuries sustained in the crash, according to autopsies that were presented at the hearing. Both York, of Lehi, and Hanzon, of Pearland, Texas, were 21 years old. The driver of the car was hospitalized but did not have life-threatening injuries.
The crash occurred at 400 South and State Street in Orem. Orem Police Cpl. Andrew Thorup said debris from the collision was far worse than any he had seen previously in his career.
Castellon-Flores was driving at least 63 mph as he approached the intersection, and he pressed the accelerator as the light turned yellow, according to police testimony at the preliminary hearing. A data recorder in the car shows that he was going 73 mph just before the collision, on a road with a 40 mph speed limit, police said.
Orem police detective Dakota Hoover, who evaluated the crash, also said that an altered tire size in Castellon-Flores' car could mean the actual speeds of the car were even higher.
Defense attorney Stephen Allred argued that the women in the car should have yielded the right of way to Castellon-Flores because they were turning left at the yellow light when he was going straight through the intersection. But Hoover testified that although Castellon-Flores had the right of way, he forfeited that when he was speeding.
Allred noted that if the car had not turned left, his client could only have been cited with speeding. He also said that at the speed Castellon-Flores was moving when the other car started to turn, he likely would not have been able to stop before the intersection.
Deputy Utah County Attorney Tye Christensen, however, argued that because Castellon-Flores was going so much faster than would be expected on the road, the driver of the other car may not have realized they were not able to safely turn.
Christensen noted that there is no debate over how the crash occurred, and that the two students were killed from the force of the accident. He said the manslaughter charges are justified because Castellon-Flores was driving recklessly.
Fourth District Judge Kraig Powell determined that enough evidence to support the charges involving recklessness had been presented and he ordered Castellon-Flores' case to be presented in a jury trial.
"While that may be a close call in many instances, for the purposes of this preliminary hearing the court finds that the risk that the defendant took was unjustifiable because, No. 1, he was speeding and, No. 2, the evidence shows that when the light turned yellow that he did not attempt to stop, but instead accelerated," Powell said.
Castellon-Flores is expected to enter a plea in the case at a hearing on March 28.