Richard David Lavalle, 59, of Long Beach was driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck eastbound on Arlington Drive near the intersection of Junipero Drive just before 6 p.m. on Dec. 6 when he failed to halt for a stop sign, striking the autistic youth as he rode his bicycle in a crosswalk.
The victim, Noel Bascon, was riding with his father at the time. A passerby attempted CPR, and first responders continued lifesaving measures, before the youngster was taken to a hospital, where he died.
Lavalle was arrested at the scene on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. He was convicted in 2013 of driving under the influence in San Diego County, triggering an upgraded charge from manslaughter to murder, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Lavalle’s arraignment was scheduled for Dec. 9, but was postponed until the end of the month at his attorney’s behest.
“The arraignment for Lavalle was continued to December 30,” Kimberly Edds, the public information officer for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, told The Epoch Times. “He’s represented right now by a public defender, and the defense asked for the continuance.”
Edds noted that the request was “not unusual,” given the severity of the case. “He is still being held on no bail,” she said.
If convicted, Lavelle faces up to 30 years in prison. Due to his prior DUI conviction, he had to sign a Watson advisement, which stated that if he killed someone while driving under the influence in the future, he could be charged with murder.
Lavalle is also potentially a third-striker because he was convicted in August 2009 of armed bank robbery in federal court, and sentenced in April 2010 to 35 months in federal prison, according to court records. He was returned to prison for another year when he violated supervised release in 2013.
Lavalle was also convicted of robbery in Los Angeles County in 2018.
The passenger in the vehicle, Lee Anna Diaz Murphy, 56, of Artesia, was also arrested. She was booked on possession of controlled substances and possession of unlawful paraphernalia.
A GoFundMe page was created on Dec. 7 to support Bascon’s family during the tragedy. Within 48 hours, the $10,000 goal had been more than doubled, with over 360 people contributing.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer was outraged.
“The unimaginable pain that this family is being forced to endure because of the selfish decision of a stranger is unconscionable,” Spitzer said in a press release.
“I have spent decades advocating for stricter penalties for people who choose to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Now another innocent child has paid the price for someone else’s selfish decision. I am sick and tired of my prosecutors having to go to court to file murder charges against repeat drunk and drugged drivers who have been warned about the consequences—sometimes multiple times. Taking a Sunday bike ride with your dad shouldn’t equate to a death sentence.”
The DA’s Office has announced that Senior Deputy District Attorney Dan Feldman of the Homicide Unit will prosecute the case.
City News Service contributed to this report.