Man accused in deadly Halloween-night crash appears in court to face murder charges

The 20-year-old accused of drunkenly running down a family as they walked home on Halloween appeared in court to face murder charges for the first time Wednesday afternoon.

Carlo Navarro stood with his hands cuffed to his waist, head slightly bowed as he answered procedural questions.

“Yes, your honor,” he said quietly as more than half a dozen news cameras took his picture in a Downtown Long Beach courtroom. After the judge confirmed his name and date of birth, Navarro pleaded not guilty.

He faces 45 years to life in prison if he’s convicted of three counts each of murder and gross-vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for the deaths of Joseph Awaida, his wife Raihan Dakhil and their 3-year-old son Omar.

The death of the beloved family has drawn intense attention in Long Beach.

Carlo Navarro looked down for most of the hearing. Photo by Stephen Carr.

Authorities allege Navarro was driving drunk when his SUV jumped a curb and crashed into the family, who were walking with a stroller at Los Cerritos Park.

Navarro was immediately apologetic after the crash, according to his defense attorney Bryan Schroeder.

During the hearing, Navarro barely looked up. He stood almost completely still in a blue jailhouse jumpsuit.

After the crash, while Navarro waited to be checked by a doctor, he asked to pray for the Awaida family, according to part of a police report obtained by the Long Beach Post.

“It should be noted that at one point while at the hospital Navarro asked if he could take a knee,” an officer wrote. “I told him that he could sit in a chair and he replied that he did not want to sit down. Navarro said that he would like to pray for the pedestrians he had hit.”

Joseph Awaida, his wife, Raihan Dakhil, and son, Omar. Courtesy Cecilia Ramos.

Joseph Awaida, his wife, Raihan Dakhil, and son, Omar. Courtesy Cecilia Ramos.

Outside court, Navarro’s family huddled in a circle, their arms wrapped around each other.

Schroeder said they’ve considered contacting the Awaidas’ relatives to try to apologize.

But, at the request of a prosecutor, a judge ordered them to refrain from reaching out in any way to the Awaida family.

“They wish no contact whatsoever from the defense or the defense’s family,” Deputy District Attorney Karen Brako said.

Navarro will continue to be held without bail for the time being. His next court date was set for January.

According to Schroeder, police allege Navarro was driving between 70 and 80 mph before the crash. A few hours later, they measured his blood-alcohol level at .11, the defense attorney said.

To prove Navarro is guilty of murder, prosecutors would have to show that Navarro knew how dangerous it was for him to be driving and chose to disregard the risk, according to legal experts.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.