Littlerock man pleads not guilty to vehicular manslaughter

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A Littlerock man accused of slamming into the back of a parked car on the shoulder of Highway 14 this past summer and killing an occupant of that car pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the charges filed against him.

Joe Lopez, a 25-year-old carpenter who lives in Littlerock, appeared Wednesday in San Fernando Superior Court where he was formally charged with vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol causing death.

“The defendant was arraigned Dec. 5 and pleaded not guilty,” Paul Eakins, spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.

Lopez was scheduled to appear back in court Jan. 29 to set a date for a preliminary hearing.

He is accused of causing the death of Sam H. Edinburgh, 62, of Palmdale, in a traffic collision Aug. 13.

Lopez was reportedly driving a 2004 Toyota Matrix northbound on Highway 14, north of Soledad Canyon Road, when he started approaching a Toyota Corolla, according to investigators with the California Highway Patrol.

Edinburgh – also known as Hanan Somali – was parked in the corolla on the right shoulder of the road.

Lopez’s car drifted into the right shoulder, where the front of the car collided with the corolla, according to investigators.

Edinburgh suffered fatal injuries in the crash as a result.

Investigators at the time of the crash said drugs and alcohol were suspected to have been a factor in the collision.

The incident was initially reported as a vehicle fire around 5:29 a.m. along Highway 14 but when fire officials responded they found a traffic collision with a person dead on arrival, officials with the Los Angeles County Fire Department said at the time of the crash.

Lopez was arrested for vehicular manslaughter and felony DUI. His bail – initially set at $100,000, was later raised to $2 million.

He has remained in custody at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic since his arrest.

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on Twitter @jamesarthurholt

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