Crime - Sacto 911

Wrong-way driver pleads no-contest to second-degree murder in I-5 crash

A wrong-way driver accused of causing a fatal crash on Interstate 5 near Arena Boulevard in Sacramento has pleaded no contest to second-degree murder.

Jefferson Cortez, 27, also entered no-contest pleas Wednesday to charges of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs causing injury and possession of methamphetamine, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney’s office news release.

One person was killed and five other people were injured in the crash, which occurred about 1:30 a.m. June 20, 2013. Cortez was seen driving on Del Paso Boulevard at a high rate of speed with no headlights on. He drove onto I-5 going northbound. A witness then saw Cortez’s car traveling 85 to 90 mph, headed southbound on I-5 in the northbound lanes.

At least four other witnesses, in four separate vehicles, reported Cortez’s car came at them with the headlights on, but he did nothing to alter his vehicle’s path and forced them to swerve out of the way to avoid being hit, officials said.

As he neared the Arena Boulevard exit, Cortez was traveling with his lights off and drove toward a Ford Explorer, crashing into it. Cortez’s car became airborne upon impact and crashed into a Toyota Corolla. The driver of the Corolla died immediately. Officials said the five occupants of the Explorer suffered injuries, including gashes, bumps, scrapes and bruises, as well as head, neck, shoulder and hip pain.

Cortez was taken to a hospital for treatment. Officials said it was determined he was under the influence of a stimulant and cannabis. In searching his car, officers found a glass pipe and a baggie containing 3.21 grams of methamphetamine.

Cortez is to be sentenced Sept. 26 by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Sweet.