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Driver arrested, charged with manslaughter in death of disabled man in sweltering car

Driver arrested, charged with manslaughter in death of disabled man in sweltering car
A West Covina man was charged with involuntary manslaughter and elder abuse in the death of Timothy Cortinas, above, a 51-year-old man with an intellectual disability who was left inside a car last summer, according to court records. (Cortinas Family)

A 25-year-old West Covina man was charged with involuntary manslaughter and elder abuse in the death of a 51-year-old man with an intellectual disability who was left inside a car last summer, according to court records.

Prosecutors with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office filed a criminal complaint Friday in support of an arrest warrant for Emanuel Arellano, 25.

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A warrant for his arrest was filed earlier this week and Arellano turned himself Thursday to Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies at the Sam Dimas Sheriff’s station. He is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail, according to inmate records.

Timothy Cortinas died in August after being left inside a vehicle on a residential street in West Covina for an unknown length of time, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide detectives.

Arellano was a driver in charge of shuttling Cortinas between his group home in Walnut and his daily activities, according to a wrongful death suit filed last year by Cortinas’ mother. Cortinas was left inside a vehicle parked in front of Arellano’s home, according to the suit.

Deputies from the department’s Walnut station responded to a call for a “fire rescue” on the 300 block of South Frankfurt Avenue on Aug. 3 at 8:04 p.m., according to a Sheriff’s Department news release.

They found an unresponsive man who had experienced an unknown medical emergency. He was pronounced dead at the scene and the Los Angeles County coroner's office later determined he died from the effects of hyperthermia. The death was ruled an accident.

Cortinas' mother, Irene Melendez, filed a wrongful death suit in October against Arellano and his employer, the nonprofit group Easterseals.

Arellano was driving three people that day, dropped off two of them but decided to go home and left Cortinas inside the car. Cortinas had the mental capacity of a child and was "borderline nonverbal," according to the suit, and was unable to escape the car as the temperature inside exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Timothy’s death was not a mere accident, but the result of a criminally negligent act,” said Neama Rahmani, a lawyer for Cortinas’ mother. “We commend the district attorney’s office and look forward to full justice for Timothy.”

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