A Laguna Beach doctor pleaded innocent Friday to two charges of second-degree murder for allegedly driving his car into the path of a minivan, killing a Mission Viejo couple.
Internist Ronald Joseph Allen Jr., 31, also entered an innocent plea to a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, causing injury, in connection with the critical injuries the couple’s 11-year-old daughter suffered in the July 11 crash.
Allen, whom his defense attorney described as remorseful and distraught because of “the horrendous hurt he has caused,” remains in custody in Orange County Jail with no bail.
Prosecutors added the felony charge of driving under the influence and upgraded earlier charges of manslaughter against Allen after they concluded that, as a physician, he was acutely aware of the hazards of driving while impaired.
Deputy Public Defender Michael Giannini said after Friday’s arraignment in Orange County Superior Court that the murder charges are unwarranted.
“We do not deny his involvement in this,” Giannini said. But, he he added, “this man was not aware at the time of driving that he was presenting a specific danger to people in the road.”
Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Molko on Friday declined to discuss the results of toxicological and alcohol tests.
Giannini has said previously that Allen’s blood-alcohol level at the time of the collision was between .03% and .05%, below the legal limit of .08%. However, Giannini said Friday that the results of further tests are pending.
Allen has a history of arrests on suspicion of driving under the influence.
If convicted of the second-degree murder charges, he could be sentenced from 15 years to life on each count.
Noreen and Mark Minzey were killed in the head-on collision on Santiago Canyon Road about sunset when Allen’s auto crossed the center line of the two-lane highway and smashed into the Minzeys’ car, killing them instantly, police said. Their daughter, Karie, sustained serious injuries and is still recovering. The family was returning from a softball tournament in which Karie had played.
Allen had been arrested 10 days before on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, hit-and-run and resisting arrest.
The Medical Board of California in August initiated proceedings to permanently revoke Allen’s license to practice medicine, accusing him of gross negligence and the use of dangerous drugs and alcohol.
Allen is next due in court Oct. 22, when a preliminary hearing date will be set.