A Costa Mesa man accused in a hit-and-run crash that killed a 2-year-old and her grandmother last month pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two counts of murder, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.
Alec Scott Abraham, 21, could face 30 years to life in prison if he's convicted of running a red light and broadsiding a Chevrolet Cruze carrying a Lake Forest family on June 10.
Prosecutors contend Abraham was speeding in a black Ford Mustang when the cars collided at Alton and Barranca parkways in Irvine.
Katherine Hampton, 54, was driving the Cruze and died at the crash scene, according to police. Her granddaughter Kaydence was in the seat behind her and was revived at the scene, but died four days later at a hospital, authorities said.
The impact also seriously injured Hampton's daughter and 7-year-old grandson who were passengers, police said.
The Orange County District Attorney's office originally charged Abraham with manslaughter, but prosecutors said last month that new evidence let them increase the charges to murder.
Under the law, suspects can be charged with murder in certain situations if they're aware what they're doing is risking someone's life and choose to proceed anyway, prosecutor Stephen Cornwell said.
Cornwell declined to explain why law enforcement believes that applies in this case. "I'm just not ready to discuss the evidence we have at this point," he said.
Officials previously said they were investigating the possibility that street racing contributed to the crash.
A court document also describes Abraham looking into the mangled Cruze at the dead and injured occupants before fleeing. He then allegedly stole a bystander's phone which he used to call for help evading the police.
Detectives arrested him the next day in a Costa Mesa park, authorities said. As they were arresting him, Abraham told police he'd "only get five years" for the crime, court documents say.
Abraham has a history of aggressive driving, according to court documents, including recent citations involving speeding. He's currently being held in Orange County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail and is due back in court July 30.
A lawyer representing Abraham did not return a call Wednesday.