Across the Area

Freeway crash suspect pleads innocent

A RESIDENT of Orange has pleaded not guilty to several charges connected with the death of a woman and her child in an crash on the Garden Grove Freeway on Jan. 1.

The suspect in a four-vehicle crash on Jan. 1 on the Garden Grove Freeway that took the lives of a mother and her daughter has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, according to authorities and published reports.

On Friday, Melvin Cleveland Branch, 30, of Orange, made his response to charges of gross vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence, resisting arrest and attempting to flee the scene. He was arrested, released and rearrested after the incident on the freeway near Springdale Street in Westminster, in which Jolene Gardner, 33, of Inglewood and her 9-year-old daughter Payton Castillo, also of Inglewood were fatally injured.

Branch allegedly was driving his vehicle “at high rate of speed” and the auto crashed into two vehicles, one of which struck a fourth. Gardner was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange where she was declared dead at 1:47 a.m. Castillo was pronounced dead at the scene.

The suspect was arrested and booked for felony drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter, but released for lack of evidence. Then on Jan. 4, new charges were filed against Branch.

Baldwin Park man killed in freeway crash

A 55-year-old Baldwin Park man was killed in an accident early Sunday morning on the Garden Grove Freeway. According to authorities, the collision reported at 1 a.m., the incident taking place near Magnolia Street in Garden Grove.

A Honda occupied by four people went out of control and smashed into a center divider. Two were hurt and hospitalized. One, identified as Quyen Luu, was declared dead at 1:34 a.m. at UCI Medical Center in Orange.

The California Highway Patrol closed westbound lanes of the freeway, and they remained closed for nearly seven hours.








Leave a Reply