MCSO makes arrest in deadly car crash in Laveen

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

LAVEEN, Ariz. -- The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has made an arrest in an August crash in Laveen that left a woman dead.

Michael Cherney, 55, of El Mirage, was arrested Thursday and booked into the 4th Avenue Jail on charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault, and possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.

Back on August 21, Cherney was involved in a crash that killed Elizabeth Valenzuela, 44.

Cheney's car and a minivan collided at 51st Avenue and Estrella Drive, about 2 miles south of Dobbins Road, at around 2 a.m.

Police said the minivan was northbound on 51st Avenue and a Crown Victoria was headed west on Estrella Drive.

Witnesses told investigators that the car blew through a stop sign and T-boned the minivan.

"Nobody in the cars were wearing seat belts," Lt. Brandon Jones of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said.

Jones said the impact "disintegrated or ripped apart the passenger side of the vehicle."

Valenzuela was in the passenger seat. She was thrown out of the minivan.

"She and the van slid against a canal embankment where the van then landed on top of her," Jones explained.

Valenzuela was pronounced dead at the scene.

The man who was driving the minivan was alert and conscious when emergency crews arrived on the scene.

Cherney was also taken to the hospital.

Investigators have been working to piece together the moments leading up to the crash.

"We do know that alcohol is a factor in this," Jones said. "We know that the suspect, currently at the hospital, tending to his wounds, is probably going to be facing some serious charges here.

"There was an alcohol container found in his vehicle -- half empty," he continued. "He was 0.2 blood-alcohol content at the hospital."

The legal threshold to be considered "under the influence" is a BAC of 0.08 or more within two hours of driving. A BAC above 0.15 is consider Extreme DUI under Arizona law, while 0.2 or higher is Super Extreme DUI.

At 0.2, a person would likely exhibit severe motor impairment, appear to be in a stupor and not understand his or her actions. There also is the possibility of losing consciousness and experiencing memory blackout.

In addition to the alcohol, Jones said investigators also found marijuana in Cherney's Crown Victoria.