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DNA evidence shows Utah driver in fatal 2016 car crash lied to police, charges say

(Photo courtesy of Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office) Isaac James Hernandez

A Utah man is charged with automobile homicide after evidence shows he was driving drunk in a fatal 2016 Tooele County crash, according to court documents.

Then-28-year-old Isaac James Hernandez, of Salt Lake City, had a blood alcohol level of 0.14 percent, documents say, and 34-year-old Scott Newman died as a result of injuries he suffered in the crash.

In addition to the automobile homicide count, a second-degree felony, Hernandez faces two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol, one a third-degree felony and the other a class A misdemeanor, and one count of obstructing justice, a class A misdemeanor. Charges were filed Monday in 3rd District Court.

A news release from the Utah Highway Patrol at the time of the crash said that a westbound car in which the men were traveling failed to negotiate a curve on Interstate 80 near mile marker 77 — about 45 miles west of Salt Lake City — about 2 a.m. on July 25, 2016.

(Photo courtesy of Utah Highway Patrol) One man is dead after a car crash on Interstate 80 in Tooele County on Monday, July 25, 2016.

It went off the road, striking a large sign to the right of the highway, vaulting off a dirt mound and rolling several times. Court documents say that the back window of the car was destroyed and that the roof had separated from the car.

Newman had not been wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the car, the release said. He died at the scene. Two other passengers, a male and a female, were injured, but survived.

Hernandez was outside the car when troopers arrived, court documents say. He was “walking around frantically” and troopers “noticed a strong smell of alcohol on his breath as he spoke to them.”

(Photo courtesy of Utah Highway Patrol) One man is dead after a car crash on Interstate 80 in Tooele County on Monday, July 25, 2016.

When he was interviewed about the incident Aug. 30, 2016, Hernandez told police he was “positive” he’d been sitting in the back of the car and that Newman had been driving.

During the investigation, troopers noted that the only seat belt that appeared to not have been in use during the crash was in the rear of the car, and the seat belt for the driver’s seat indicated it had been in use, court documents say. Based on this information, they did not believe Newman was the driver.

Troopers cut out the deployed airbag from the driver’s seat as evidence, and DNA testing determined that Hernandez was the driver, according to the documents.

Hernandez was booked into the Salt Lake County jail in early December on suspicion of unrelated charges. His criminal history includes mostly burglary- and theft-related charges, as well as forgery, criminal mischief and possession charges.