GV-area man changes plea in 1-80 deaths
RENO – A retired firefighter from the Grass Valley area who earlier pleaded innocent in a drunken-driving accident that killed five people and seriously injured two changed his plea Friday to guilty to five felony counts.
In a surprise move, Stephen Scharosch, 51, pleaded guilty in Washoe District Court to five counts of felony DUI causing death in the May crash on Interstate 80. The crash claimed the lives of five family members, including three children.
Scharosch did not change his plea on two remaining charges of felony DUI causing bodily harm.
His sentencing on the five counts is scheduled for Jan. 17. Each count carries two to 20 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Besides drinking, the indictment returned by a Washoe County grand jury in June alleged Scharosch may have been “under the combined influence of alcohol and marijuana” when his 1989 Ford Mustang plowed head-on into a minivan carrying eight members of a West Jordan, Utah, family.
Prosecutors allege Scharosch was driving west in the eastbound lanes of I-80 when the accident occurred May 13 about 20 miles east of Reno.
Fernando Meza-Arriaga, 31, was driving home with his family from California when the accident occurred that evening.
Meza-Arriaga escaped with minor injuries. His wife, Maria Avelar-Mojarro, 29, was critically injured. The couple’s two sons and a daughter, ranging in age from 7 years to 9 months, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Meza-Arriaga’s 38-year-old sister also died at the scene. A 4-year-old niece died several hours later at a Reno hospital. Another niece, who is 2, was seriously injured. None were wearing seat belts.
Scharosch, whose car was nearly ripped in half by the impact of the crash, suffered scrapes, bruises and a broken collarbone.
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