A Grandview teen is accused of going 40 to 55 mph over the speed limit when his Dodge Neon crashed into a cluster of trees in January, killing his two friends.
Jovannie Jonpaul Razo, 18, pleaded innocent Thursday to two counts of vehicular homicide in Benton County Superior Court. It was his first time in court since prosecutors filed the charges in mid-October.
Prosecutors said Razo was driving with disregard for the safety of others Jan. 8 when he lost control of his Dodge Neon SRT Turbo on Evans Road north of Grandview. The car rolled several times before hitting the trees.
Carlos Ochoa and Kevin Lopez-Gonzales, both 16, were killed. The teens were juniors at Grandview High School, where Razo, who was 17 at the time of the crash, was a senior.
Razo’s trial is set for Jan. 21. He could not be reached Thursday about the charges.
Razo was seriously hurt in the crash and has remained out of jail during the investigation.
Deputy Prosecutor Terry Bloor said Razo’s injuries did not play a role in the delay of the case. He said the investigation to determine the cause of the crash was just recently completed.
Benton County Sheriff’s Deputy Glen Thompson concluded that Razo was driving 76 to 78 mph when he crashed, court documents said. The speed limit on Evans Road is 35 mph and the speed limit on the curve where he lost control is 20 mph.
Friends who were following Razo’s car told investigators the car pulled away from them at a high speed and disappeared, court documents said. When the friends came around a corner they saw the wreck.
Lopez-Gonzales died at the scene and Ochoa died at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland.
Sheriff’s Lt. Chuck Jones told the Herald shortly after the crash that alcohol was not involved. Investigators also don’t believe Razo was drag racing.
The teens were reportedly headed to Gravity Hill, a popular hangout near Prosser, before the crash happened just east of the Yakima-Benton county border.