Judge keeps driver in fatal crash in juvenile detention


A judge has ruled that a 17-year-old boy accused of crashing a car carrying four of his Torrey Pines High School classmates as they left a party, killing one of the boys, will be held at Juvenile Hall until at least Oct. 19.

Judge George “Woody” Clarke made the ruling Wednesday morning. The teenager is charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated and DUI with injury.

Defense attorney Robert Bourne argued unsuccessfully that the boy should be released to his parents because he is an exceptional student’’ and has no history of problems with school administrators.

The high school senior is also a star athlete who just a few months ago made the San Diego Hall of Champions All-League team for lacrosse.

But Deputy District Attorney Aimee McLeod told Judge George Woody’’ Clarke that the youth may have a drug problem, and that his parents had been testing him for drug use.

McLeod added that right before the accident, the teen was speeding and that his blood-alcohol content was 0.10 percent about an hour after the crash.

The boy wore a Juvenile Hall-issued orange shirt and navy blue pants at today’s detention hearing. His hands were shackled and he did not look at his parents in the courtroom.

When the judge asked the boy’s parents if they wanted to say anything on behalf of their son, the father declined and deferred any comment to Bourne.

Prosecutors said the teenager will not be tried as an adult.

McLeod declined to elaborate on what the teen faces if he’s convicted, but did point out the difference between juvenile and adult court.

“In adult court, the focus is punishment”’ the prosecutor said outside court. “In Juvenile Court, the focus is rehabilitation. Regardless of the crime, we are very focused on the minor and the family. Some consequences are custody, some are programs and sometimes it’s a combination of both.”

It is the newspaper’s policy not to indentify juveniles accused of crimes.

An initial California Highway Patrol report said a combination of alcohol and speed contributed to the pre-dawn accident.

Alexander Michael Capozza, 17, died at 1:43 a.m. Sunday in the 5000 block of La Granada in Rancho Santa Fe just past the intersection of Rambla de las Flores near the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Course. The speeding 2008 Mazda 3 he was in with four friends crashed and rolled several times, ending up in some bushes, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Authorities said another passenger, identified as Jamie Arnold, was not wearing a seat belt and was critically injured in the accident.

But in a statement released Wednesday by Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Arnold -now listed in good condition - said he was wearing a seat

belt when the car crashed.

Arnold suffered a scalp injury, concussion, minor neck injury and a right elbow contusion. He is expected to make a full recovery and return home soon.

“I would like to thank all of my family, friends and well-wishers for their support during this difficult time,’’ the teen said in the statement. “I was in fact wearing a seat belt and fell fortunate to have walked away from this tragic accident with only minor injuries.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the Capozza family. Alex was like a brother to me and I will miss him terribly.’’

CHP Sgt. Lewis Hall said his agency and the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control are trying to determine where the students had been drinking, how they acquired the alcohol and whether adults were involved. He also said illegal drugs may have been a factor.

On Monday afternoon, five teenagers stood silently on the side of the road on La Granada in Rancho Santa Fe in front of a swelling memorial for their lost Torrey Pines classmate.

Among a Mazda emblem, side mirror and bits of plastic were bunches of flowers and handwritten notes. The top of a surfboard was stuck into the ground, draped with colorful rosary beads and a San Diego Padres hat.

“Hope you’re shredding up there, you will be missed but we will all see you again,” read a note written on the surfboard.

At Torrey Pines on Monday and Tuesday, staff did what they could to support their students, Principal Brett Killeen said.

Counselors and staff visited many classrooms and areas were designated for student support. Around 80 students visited the small group setting on Monday and around 40 on Tuesday.

“We are really proud of our kids for taking care of one another ad our teachers for being understanding,” Killeen said.

To remember Alex’s tragedy, students will be selling a memorial bracelet at Torrey Pines and at Canyon Crest Academy.

Students Trevor Gould, Rafaella Aguiar and Kelly Connor set up a Facebook page for the bracelets and they have ordered 550, black bands that read “R.I.P. Alex Capozza.”

“I feel this bracelet will be a great for when you’re at a party, you can look down and remember what has happened and know that you can change something like from happening again by instead calling a cab or your parents or a sober driver or just crashing where you are,” reads the Facebook page.

“It’s not fair that it happened to them, because no one deserves it but we can stop it from happening again.”

Students are also launching a campaign to nominate Alex for homecoming king this year.

  • City News Service contributed to this report.