Charges refiled for 2020 DWI crash north of Española

Charges refiled for 2020 DWI crash north of Española

Feb. 14—Vehicle homicide charges were reinstated this week against a woman accused in a June 2020 crash on US 84 north of Espaola that killed 29-year-old Felisha Barela and 23-year-old Justice Gutierrez-Cruz.

Corey Christine Johnson faces two counts of vehicular homicide. He is accused of driving under the influence of multiple prescription drugs, according to a document filed Monday in First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe.

A criminal complaint filed in Rio Arriba County Magistrate Court after the incident said a witness told deputies that Johnson was southbound on US 84 responding to an accident when his vehicle suddenly veered into oncoming traffic, causing a head-on collision.

Johnson was taken to Presbyterian Española Hospital and then airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

Medical responders rendered emergency aid to Barela and Gutierrez-Cruz, but they showed no signs of life, according to the complaint. Funeral services for both women were held at the Zion Worship Center in Pojoac, with burials at the Nuestra Señora de Dolores Cemetery in Chimayo, their obituaries said.

Barela worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory, according to her obituary, while Gutierrez-Cruz was a young mother who loved dancing, singing and coaching.

The initial charge filed against Johnson in magistrate court — vehicular homicide by reckless driving — was dismissed in April 2021 pending further investigation, court documents show. The case was refiled in September 2022, showing amended charges of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence of morphine, oxycodone, alprazolam, midazolam and nordiazepam.

The case was later dismissed without prejudice after the required witnesses did not appear at the hearing, but was reinstated on December 8. On Monday, the case was sent to the district court.

Gutierrez-Cruz’s grandmother, Carolyn Esquivel, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Johnson after the crash and a settlement was reached in March.

Esquivel also sought a restraining order in 2021, alleging that Johnson’s daughter sent him threatening messages via Facebook.

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