Glendale man faces murder charge in I-10 crash that killed teen

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Robert Joseph Lopez By Jennifer Thomas Robert Joseph Lopez By Jennifer Thomas
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

TEMPE, Ariz. – A Glendale man faces a murder charge following a single-vehicle crash early Friday morning that claimed the life of a 16-year-old girl.

Robert Joseph Lopez Jr., 19, was booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail on one count of second-degree murder, three counts of aggravated assault with a dangerous instrument, one count of aggravated assault resulting in serious injury and one count of endangerment.

According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, five people were in a Saturn sedan when it crashed on eastbound Interstate 10 near the U.S. 60 interchange in Tempe just after 5 a.m.

According to a probable cause statement, Lopez lost control of the vehicle, which collided with the base of an overhead freeway light pole mounted in the concrete median wall. During the impact, Davonna Crouch's head hit a large bolt used to secure the pole.

The vehicle deflected, returned to the eastbound lanes and continued in a counterclockwise rotation until it came to a rest. Police said the accident scene spanned over 600 feet.

Witnesses reported that the driver was speeding and making dangerous lane changes prior to the crash. The posted speed limit in the area is 65 mph.

One witness told police that he was driving with his cruise control set at 80 mph when the Saturn "passed me like I was standing still." The witness said there was at least a 25-mph difference in the speeds of the two vehicles.

Crouch was pronounced dead at the scene. Lopez and three other passengers were transported to local hospitals for treatment of their injuries.

An officer at the scene reported smelling the odor of burnt marijuana coming from inside the Saturn. Lopez said he "smoked a blunt of marijuana before midnight," according to the probable cause statement. A urine sample tested positive for THC, the principal impairing chemical in marijuana. A blood sample was sent for laboratory testing.

DPS detectives arrested Lopez after he was released from a Chandler hospital on Sunday.

Detectives suspect that impairment was a factor in the collision and charges are still pending.

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