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Why DUI suspect wasn't charged with vehicular manslaughter

Ronnie Ward III is accused of an alleged DUI crash that injured a mother and killed her unborn baby. And though he is facing numerous charges, manslaughter isn’t one of them.

RIO LINDA, Calif. — In April, charges were filed against the man accused of a drunk driving crash that severely injured a pregnant mother and killed her unborn baby, but vehicular manslaughter wasn't one of the charges.

Ronnie Ward III, 24, was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, driving with greater than .08 percent blood alcohol concentration and personally inflicting great bodily injury, according to the Sacramento District Attorney's Office.

But many wondered why Ward wasn't charged with vehicular manslaughter for the death of the baby. ABC10 reached out to the Sacramento District Attorney's Office to find out.

"Long ago our legislature amended Penal Code section 187, which specifically makes the unlawful killing of a fetus murder," said Rod Norgaard, assistant chief deputy district attorney, in an email to ABC10.

Credit: Family
Ciara Villegas, 31, was taken to a local hospital where an emergency C-section was performed, the family told ABC10.

Penal Code section 187 defines murder as the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.

Norgaard said the legislature intentionally failed to amend or enact the manslaughter statutes, including vehicular manslaughter, to include the same language.

"Thus the state of the law in California is that the death of a fetus is not covered in the definition of manslaughter or vehicular manslaughter," he said.

The crash happened just after 8 p.m. April 8 near M Street and 4th Avenue in Rio Linda. Police said Ward was driving when he suddenly veered to the right for an unknown reason and collided with a parked Chevy Impala, which was then pushed into 31-year-old Ciara Villegas. She was six months pregnant at the time.

Villegas was taken to a local hospital where she had an emergency C-section. The baby, whom the family called "RJ," died April 10.

Norgaard said ethical obligations prevent his office from discussing the facts of the pending criminal prosecution.

Ward is scheduled to be back in court June 11 at 8:30 a.m.


WATCH MORE: Mother, baby fighting for their lives after being struck by suspected DUI driver

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