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Tearful plea in fatal crash case

Rocklin man says ‘no contest’ in street racing incident that killed three
By: Penne Usher Special to the Journal
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PLACERVILLE —The man charged with three Salmon Falls Road deaths changed his plea from not guilty to no contest in El Dorado County Superior Court Friday. An emotional Mark Steven Barrera broke down during the brief appearance before Judge James R. Wagoner. Berrera, 22, with tears streaming down his face, quietly responded “no contest” as Judge Wagoner read off each count of vehicular manslaughter, each time stating the names of the victims from the November 2009 fatal crash. Barrera was charged with three counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence connected to the deaths of passengers Nan Hee Pak, a 16-year-old junior at Rocklin High School, Citrus Heights resident Alex Weast, 20, and Ellijah, “E.J.” Shaw, 18, a senior at Folsom High School, in a crash on Salmon Falls Road near Pilot Hill. Barrera was driving and lost control on a sharp curve, slamming into an oak tree. In July 2010 the California Highway Patrol Placerville Office said street racing was a factor in the crash. Berrera was arraigned May 2 on a grand jury indictment and had previously entered a plea of not guilty. Defense attorney James Clark said outside the courtroom Friday that the decision to change the plea was based on the evidence. “I went over all the evidence and if we went to trial we would lose,” Clark said. The grand jury filed its indictment April 22 charging Barrera with three felony counts of unlawfully and without malice killing a human being, “while driving a vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence; or while driving a vehicle in the commission of a lawful act which might have produced death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence,” according to court documents. None of the families of the victims’ were present but are expected at the Nov. 4 sentencing. Clark said the case is nothing but tragic for all involved. “It’s a nightmare for any family to suffer the loss of a child,” he said. “We didn’t want to put the families through (a trial).” In July 2010 Officer Dan Stark, with the California Highway Patrol Placerville Office, said street racing was a factor in the crash. Officers also said they believed speed was a factor at the time of the accident. “Drifting is considered a form of street racing,” Stark said. “Although there didn’t appear to be a second car involved in the accident, drifting was certainly a factor.” Barrera remains out of custody and is scheduled to return to court at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 4 in Dept. 2 of El Dorado County Superior Court. He faces a maximum sentence of eight years, eight months in prison.