The girl believed to be among those responsible for a fatal Castaic street-racing crash last year was booked Wednesday at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, according to law enforcement officials.
The girl, whose name was withheld by law enforcement due to her being a minor at the time of the crash, is believed to have been behind the wheel on Aug. 8 when her vehicle veered off of Sloan Canyon Road and crash-landed in a home’s backyard, killing her passenger in the back seat, 17-year-old Kayla Payan.
The case, according to Sgt. David Shoemaker of the SCV Sheriff’s Station, was submitted to Sylmar Juvenile Court for vehicular manslaughter, or “driving a vehicle in the commission of an unlawful (or lawful) act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence,” the California Penal Code reads.
“She was booked and released today here at our station for the charge,” Shoemaker said. “Her next court date is July 15.”
Shoemaker added that detectives had presented the District Attorney’s Office with a case against the driver in the second car found at the scene that day, which was carrying a total of three teenage boys but had not crashed. As of Wednesday afternoon, the prosecutor’s office was still reviewing the case.
The crash that took Payan’s life was first reported at 4:30 p.m. on the 24800 block of Sloan Canyon Road. The two other teenage girls in the Volkswagen sedan had also been injured in the crash and had remained on the scene alongside the three boys in the black Honda Fit awaiting first responders to arrive.
Surveillance video of the incident that captured the moments leading up to the crash, but not showing the crash itself, alluded to possible street racing on the road. After turning a corner at a high rate of speed and out of the video frame, it is believed the Volkswagen hit a curb, became airborne, then crashed into a backhoe tractor near the side of the road, before ultimately landing in the backyard of a Sloan Canyon residence.
Payan was pronounced dead upon paramedics arriving while the two other girls required transportation to the hospital.
“They stayed at the scene, and a concerned resident there — where the collision occurred — basically let them into their house to help settle down and stay there until the investigator got there to talk to them,” Shoemaker said last year.
In the immediate aftermath of the crash, investigators said they were working on a lengthy investigation that would look at what factors played into the crash, such as whether drugs/alcohol and/or street racing were contributing components to the crash.
The Volkswagen, although extensively damaged, and the Honda both had onboard computers — sometimes referred to as “black boxes” — which provided important data to investigators, Shoemaker said in a previous story from The Signal. If the second car was believed to have been street racing along with the Volkswagen, then law enforcement would consider presenting a case against that driver as well.
The crash sent shockwaves throughout the Santa Clarita Valley community, all the way up to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. A GoFundMe was established for the Payan family — who repeated once again to The Signal on Wednesday that they held no animosity toward Payan’s friends involved in the crash — in order to help them in covering funeral expenses, raising just shy of $10,000.
In speaking with The Signal after news of the driver’s arrest was released Wednesday, Andrew Aguilera, Payan’s brother who was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marines just a month prior to the crash last summer, reflected on how this would have been his sister’s senior year in high school — that she would have been among those kids graduating these last few weeks.
“It’s out of our hands, but I wish nothing but the best for her and all the other kids that were there,” said Aguilera. “No amount of money, no justice, can bring back my sister… We don’t have any hatred toward the kids and we want them to succeed in life.”
“That’s what my sister would want. I mean, those were her best friends,” Aguilera added, in reference to the two teen drivers and their passengers.
A month after the Aug. 8 crash, a second collision was reported near the scene of the one that killed Payan. Firefighters said they found an abandoned vehicle ablaze and leaning on its side against a home on the same block of Sloan Canyon Road.
The driver of that vehicle, 19-year-old Raymond Perez, had reportedly left the scene before law enforcement arrived but was ultimately contacted by crash investigators and charged on suspicion of a hit and run resulting in property damage.
The two crashes so close in time and location to one another resulted in county Supervisor Kathryn Barger authoring a motion that would specifically address traffic issues on Sloan Canyon Road. It was later revealed that the road, which sits between Valley Creek and Quail Valley roads, had not yet been accepted by the county Department of Public Works due to the need for the developer to complete the remaining non-safety items, including the installation of new trees and correcting several of the newly installed street lights that are too close to the overhead transmission lines.
The motion, which was passed unanimously by the board, asked that the road be accepted into the county system, as it had previously remained under private control since it was built by Romero Canyon LCC as part of the Castaic High School project and went into public use in August 2019. Traffic condition assessments and recommendations for any needed safety enhancements were also set to be completed as part of the approved motion.
Perez is due back in the Santa Clarita Courthouse on June 16 for his arraignment.