Suspected DUI driver pleads not guilty to killing man in wheelchair

A 37-year-old man pleaded not guilty today to charges that he drunkenly ran into a man crossing the street in a wheelchair and then drove off.

Jesus Jorge Arias sat in a Long Beach courtroom in a salmon-colored dress shirt as he awaited his arraignment on five felony charges: driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage causing injury, driving with a 0.08% blood-alcohol content causing injury, hit-and-run driving resulting in death and two counts of child abuse.

Authorities allege Arias drove off after hitting 29-year-old Kyle McNeley with his Jeep around 8 p.m. on March 28 as McNeley was pushing himself across the street backwards in his wheelchair. McNeley had used the wheelchair since suffering a stroke, according to his family.

From left to right, Karie, Kyle and Kelsie McNeley. Photo courtesy of the McNeley family.

Out of jail on a $330,000 bond, Arias stood next to his lawyer, Frank Sundstedt, as he pleaded not guilty to all five charges.

McNeley’s parents and their two close friends sat in the back row of the courtroom, paying close attention to the proceedings, the mother taking careful notes in a spiral-bound notebook.

Police arrested Arias shortly after the crash.

A motorcyclist who witnessed it said he followed Arias and flagged him down, convincing him to go back to the scene. The motorcyclist said McNeley was crossing against a red light, although police have not confirmed that.

According to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, Arias had his 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter in the car with him.

If convicted as charged, he faces a possible maximum sentence of more than eight years in state prison.

Arias is expected back in court on May 21.

A stroke left him in a wheelchair; police say a drunk driver took his life

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Valerie Osier is the Social Media & Newsletter Manager for the Long Beach Post. She started at the Post in 2018 as a breaking news reporter. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from the Cal State Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband and two cats.