Santa Maria Man Pleads Guilty to Murder and Driving Under Influence

Javier Artemio Cortes Sideswept Vehicle at More than 100 MPH, Killing Two and Injuring Two More

The Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday that Javier Artemio Cortes — the Santa Maria man who ran through a red light at more than 100 miles per hour in March 2019 and plowed into a vehicle, killing two young women and injuring two more — pleaded guilty to murder and driving under the influence and now faces 21 years to life in prison.

Javier Artemio Cortes | Credit: Santa Maria Police Department

According to District Attorney Joyce Dudley, Cortes drank alcohol at a party on the night of the incident before getting behind the wheel.

“By all appearances, he had too much to drink, and in spite of being offered a place to stay for the night, he decided to drive home under the influence of alcohol,” Dudley said in a statement released Wednesday. 

Cortes then made it safely to his home, according to reports, before deciding to leave while still under the influence of alcohol. He then drove his black Chrysler sedan more than 100 miles an hour down Donavan Street in Santa Maria at 3 a.m. and eventually ran a red light at the intersection of Donovan and Miller Streets.

At the intersection, he sideswept a Jeep Cherokee with four women between the ages of 17 and 20 years old inside. 

Despite wearing seatbelts, two of the passengers were ejected from the vehicle. Monica Gonzalez, 20, died at the scene, while 17-year-old Madison Coleman was transported to Marian Medical Center, where she later died from her injuries. The two other passengers, 18 and 20 years old, were taken to the hospital, where they were treated for major injuries. Both survived, though the injuries required  “extensive surgeries” over a significant period of time.

DA Dudley said, “The prosecution team lead by Deputy District Attorney Madison Whitmore and Deputy District Attorney Stephen Wagner worked diligently on every detail of this case for an extended period of time, including ensuring that the survivors and the families of the deceased voices were heard throughout these proceedings. In addition to the prosecution team, I want to personally commend the Santa Maria Police Department on a thorough investigation and the California Highway Patrol accident reconstruction expert for their careful evaluation of the evidence. This plea is merely just another step toward healing for all of the families whose lives have been forever tragically altered.”

Cortes officially pleaded guilty to the murders of Coleman and Gonzalez, and to driving under the influence causing great bodily injury to the two other passengers, and he is expected to be sentenced 21 years to life. His sentencing is set for November 16.

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