A second man pleaded not guilty to murder Thursday in connection with a fatal car crash that left two spectators of a Chatsworth street race dead one week ago.
Irael Valenzuela, 38, has been charged with two counts of murder and one count of engaging in a motor vehicle speed contest on a highway according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. His arrest Tuesday followed the Saturday arrest of a 21-year-old man as police investigated a deadly hit-and-run crash.
A Ford Mustang was racing another car when it lost control, skipping over a curb and plowing into a crowd of spectators on a sidewalk in Chatsworth at about 2 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, police said.
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The crash left two people dead and a third in critical condition, according to police. Eric Siguenza, 26, and Wilson Thomas Wong, 50, were identified by the LA County Coroner's office as the two people who died.
Another man was also charged with murder in connection to the case earlier this week.
It is unclear if investigators believe Valenzuela was behind the wheel of either of the cars caught on cellphone video racing.
Detective Bill Bustos, who is investigating the case, declined to say what role police believe Valenzuela played in the race.
"I’m not focusing on the driver. I’m saying that they are 'participants' in this illegal street race," he said.
Valenzuela's attorney, Jay Jaffe, said outside court that the charges are excessive.
"This really should not have been filed as a 'murder,'" Jaffe said. "But — if filed at all — it should have been filed as 'vehicular manslaughter.'"
That charge would carry a lighter penalty.
On Tuesday, Henry Michael Gevorgyan, 21, pleaded not guilty to murder charges in connection with their deaths. Prosecutors allege that Valenzuela and Gevorgyan promoted and organized the street race.
Prosecutors connected Gevorgyan to the car, but his attorney said cellphone video shows he was standing on the street at the starting line of the race, not driving one of the cars.
Both men face 33 years to life in prison if convicted and their bail has been set at more than $2 million each.