Jurors on Tuesday found a 23-year-old man guilty on three counts of murder for drunkenly running over a family of three as they finished trick-or-treating on Halloween 2019.
Carlo Adrian Navarro, who was 20 at the time of the crash, will be sentenced on Sept. 15. He faces a maximum of 45 years to life in prison, although he could be granted parole after his 25th year of incarceration because of a California law making young offenders eligible for parole at an earlier date.
Navarro never disputed he was responsible for the deaths of 3-year-old Omar Awaida, father Joseph Awaida and mother Raihan Dakhil. Instead, his attorney tried to sway the jury into convicting Navarro on lesser counts of gross vehicular manslaughter, which would’ve carried a maximum sentence of about 15 years.
Navarro was “being stupid” when he got behind the wheel of his SUV after downing several shots of Jack Daniel’s, defense attorney Bryan Schroeder told jurors during closing statements Friday, but, “From the beginning, this was not a murder case. It was a first-time DUI with awful consequences.”
But after seeing more than a week of emotional testimony, jurors ultimately rejected Schroeder’s argument.
One juror, who agreed to speak with the Post, said he was leaning toward manslaughter, but, after reading the definitions of the crimes, he and the others unanimously agreed it was murder.
To find Navarro guilty of murder, jurors had to conclude he knew how dangerous his actions were and he chose to proceed anyway with a conscious disregard for human life.
The recklessness of Navarro’s driving—speeding through a neighborhood at more than 60 mph while blowing through two stop signs—was particularly convincing, the juror said.
Prosecutors also took pains to show Navarro knew the dangers of drinking and driving, playing video of a previous incident where officers found him passed out in his SUV and he admitted he knew he was too intoxicated to drive. Despite being underage, Navarro told investigators he was able to repeatedly buy alcohol at a neighborhood liquor store called Green Diamond, which was allowed to keep operating despite a history of violations.
Jurors deliberated for less than one day in Navarro’s case, but the one who spoke with Post said he and the others felt the weight of their decision.
“It wasn’t easy,” the juror said. “There are no winners in this at all.”
The trial was full of emotional testimony, including a professional crime scene photographer who broke down on the stand at the sight of 3-year-old Omar’s shoe.
Prosecutors also showed gruesome photos of the family’s injuries, played lengthy videos of Navarro’s repeated interviews with authorities and put on security camera footage of his SUV barreling into Joseph and Raihan as they pushed Omar in a stroller along Los Cerritos Park.
“It’s a travesty,” the juror said.
Months before trial, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office offered Navarro a plea deal that would’ve netted him a sentence of 15-to-life, but he turned it down, seeking a probationary sentence instead, according to two people familiar with the negotiations.
On the eve of trial, prosecutors extended another offer of 30-to-life and a judge urged him to consider it, but Navarro opted to face a jury.
Relatives, who had been upset about the offer of 15-to-life, said they were satisfied with Tuesday’s outcome.
“There’s no justice. Joey’s not back. Raihan and Omar, they’re not back,” Vera Awaida, Joseph’s mother, said. “But the best possible outcome happened.”
Support our journalism.
Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.