Sonoma man identified as driver in fatal Highway 12 crash released
Ignacio Valencia walked out of the Sonoma County Jail Friday evening after prosecutors decided not to press charges following his arrest on suspicion of being intoxicated when his SUV was involved in a Highway 12 head-on crash that killed a 25-year-old Santa Rosa man.
Instead, the District Attorney’s Office asked the court for a three-week extension to pursue evidence proving Valencia was impaired Wednesday when he swerved into Troy Ersan’s Subaru Impreza east of Santa Rosa, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell.
Valencia, 38, of Sonoma, is set to appear May 25 in Sonoma County Superior Court.
He had been arrested by the CHP early Thursday on suspicion of felony gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and booked in jail.
“We need more time,” Staebell said after Valencia appeared in court Friday afternoon.
“We have additional investigation to do before we can make a decision on whether to file or not.”
CHP investigators suspect Valencia was under the influence of drugs when the incident occurred, Sgt. Josh Kolstad said. Prosecutors are awaiting the results of toxicology tests before charges are filed, he said.
Valencia was driving eastbound near Frey Road around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday when his Chevrolet Tahoe veered into Ersan’s vehicle.
Ersan was trapped in the vehicle and had to be extricated by firefighters, the CHP said. It appeared he died on impact.
Valencia was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for moderate injuries, the CHP said.
Valencia has been sentenced for six misdemeanors and one felony in Sonoma County since 2014, according to court records. None of them was for driving under the influence.
Most recently, Valencia was sentenced to 90 days in jail Jan. 30 for driving without a license. He received 36 months probation in May 2015 after being found guilty of receiving stolen property, a felony, and driving without a license.
Ersan was an honor student who attended Willits High School from 2007 to 2010 where he played baseball and soccer, according to his Facebook account and media reports from the time.
He went on to study at Santa Rosa Junior College before attending an unidentified California State University, according to his Facebook profile.
His family could not be reached for comment Friday.
You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. ?On Twitter @nrahaim.