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KION EXCLUSIVE: After charges dismissed, initial suspect in deadly Salinas crash shares his story

Hear more from Clarke and his mother tonight at 5 and 6 p.m.

SALINAS, Calif. (KION) A Carmel resident who was initially the suspect in a deadly Salinas crash had the case against him dismissed in court Friday morning.

Police suspected 18-year-old Jacques Clarke of driving under the influence and causing a crash that killed Rosie Figueroa, but his DNA was found on the passenger side airbag, so it is now believed that he was not the driver at the time of the crash.

“We have to look at what [the investigators] did wrong, and why there weren’t two suspects the whole time," Clarke told KION.

The California Highway Patrol said that the other person in the car was not tested for alcohol or drugs at that time. Investigators believed Clarke was the driver because the vehicle was registered to him, the key fob was found in his pocket and the driver's seat appeared to be adjusted for someone his size. Both occupants were outside the vehicle when officers arrived.

So what took so long for this new evidence to be revealed? Clarke's mother told KION she’s been fighting for the DNA to be run since just days after the crash last December.

“As we were trying to facilitate their expert being available, COVID hits so that delays it all that much more,” Managing Deputy District Attorney Marisol Mendez said.

Mendez says the DNA wasn’t finalized for testing until summer, and they received the bombshell findings in November.

Clarke said living with that truth for the last year, while most presumed him guilty, sits with him every day.

“It's been an emotional and mental fight,” Clarke said. "I do take responsibility for a lot of what happened. I understand the pain it's caused my family, the pain it's caused the victims family, i wake up and look in the mirror and it's something that lives with me.”

Clarke said he learned his lesson, and will never let someone get behind the wheel if they've been drinking.

Family and friends of Rosie Figueroa gathered outside the Salinas courthouse Friday, demanding answers and feeling further away from a sense of closure.

“Angry and just upset,” Lupe Ramirez said.“They need to continue the investigation. Rosie’s very missed she was…she’s just a good person.”

The family worries that since its already been a year, there might not be a conviction at all.

The district attorney’s office would not comment on their new investigation, but say it's already underway alongside the CHP.

“CHP has dedicated one of their best investigators to this investigation," Mendez said. "It's very active and open.”

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Drew Andre

Drew Andre is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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2 Comments

  1. Well, here is my 2 cents: I have been in a few accidents myself ( as a driver and as a passenger), the officer(s) first asked about the injured and immediately after asked who was driving. I have also called 911 to report accidents, including my own, and the 911 operator asked who was driving. Did the boy say he was not the driver at the scene of the accident? Did the passenger let his friend take the blame?
    Then this (taken from the article above)

    “It’s been an emotional and mental fight,” Clarke said. “I do take responsibility for a lot of what happened. I understand the pain it’s caused my family, the pain it’s caused the victims family, i wake up and look in the mirror and it’s something that lives with me.”

    Clarke said he learned his lesson, and will never let someone get behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking.

    The boy says he takes responsibility for a lot of what happened. A lot of what happened?? Just a lot? Wth? Then he continues by saying he understands the pain this has caused his family and the victims family.. Really? I would think he would mention the victims family first – they no longer have a member of their family and his family is still complete. Finally, he says he learned his lesson and will never allow anyone who’s been drinking to drive. Including himself?? Based only on what I’ve read in a couple of articles including this article, I do not think this boy is taking much responsibility if any at all. I don’t believe he understands any of the pain the victims family is suffering and will continue to suffer. Any apology offered to the victims family ( regardless of whether he was the driver or not, he was involved.did he ever offer some type of apology or adisplay any remorse? Again, based only on what I have read, this entire story sounds like it cost mommy and daddy lots of money – perhaps the pain he refers to is when they are paying attorney fees. I am not sorry for saying any of this, and again, based only on what I’ve read. What about the officers who were at the scene? Will they face any consequences for anything? I dunno, maybe if more details were released it could help paint a better picture. My heart goes out to the victims family. With Xmas around the corner.. As for the boy and his parents – well, I will stop here and leave it at that.

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