LAWRENCE — Drunk and in "demon mode," Pedro Nieves blasted his Acura RL through a red light before striking a Honda Civic at more than 100 mph and ripping the small car in half, according to investigators.
The impact of the April 29 crash ejected and killed Gabriela Hernandez, a 24-year-old mother of two young children, and seriously injured several others.
Nearly two months after Hernandez's death, Nieves was arrested on Thursday and charged with vehicular manslaughter while operating under the influence of alcohol, operating under the influence causing serious bodily injury, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, speeding and failure to stop or yield.
Testing indicated Nieves' blood alcohol content was .17, which is twice the legal limit, according to court papers.
Judge Mark Sullivan ordered Nieves held without bail following his arraignment in Lawrence District Court.
State troopers trained in finding and arresting violent fugitives located and arrested Nieves on Thursday morning, authorities said.
A series of investigators' reports released Thursday detail the intensity of the grisly early morning crash at South Union Street and Winthrop Avenue.
"All available units responded and upon my arrival to this five-way intersection, I observed a very horrific accident scene, with two vehicles (Honda/Acura) totally destroyed. One of the vehicles (Honda) was sheared in half and there were obvious serious injuries to several of the victims, including a fatality," wrote Lawrence Police Sgt. Michael Simard, the patrol supervisor that morning and a lead crash investigator.
Simard noted firefighters were using two set of the Jaws of Life hydraulic tools to extract trapped people from both the Honda and the Acura.
The first officer on scene found the Honda Civic sawed in half, with the back end of the car having careened 100 feet away into the parking lot of a convenience store.
The Honda driver, a 20-year-old Lawrence woman, was trapped in the driver's seat and was later Medflighted to a Boston hospital. Her passenger, Hernandez, was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
Nieves and his two passengers, Brandon Wiggins, 29, of Methuen, and Jonathan Vega, 31, of Lawrence, were also hurt, police said.
Vega, once freed from the wreckage, offered bystanders $1,000 to get him away from the crash scene, according to Simard's report.
"He stated he was in panic mode and was afraid," according to the report.
Moments after the crash, police were able to access video taken from city-owned cameras at the scene. The footage "clearly revealed, the Acura traveling at a very high rate of speed, south on South Union Street, run the red light and crash into the passenger side of the Honda, traveling east on Winthrop Avenue, in the intersection," Simard wrote in his report.
"The aftermath of the crash was horrific as the force from the Acura split the Honda into pieces, killing the passenger. The Honda had the green light and it appeared the traffic signals in that intersection were functioning properly," Simard wrote.
Police later obtained video evidence showing Nieves getting into the Acura at 12:19 a.m. and driving away. Four minutes later the crash occurred at the intersection.
Detectives estimated Nieves' speed "in excess of 100 mph," according to police.
Vega told police he remembered Nieves' driving on South Union Street prior to the crash.
He said Nieves "gunned it and sped off" and that he told him to slow down.
"...but it was too late, they crashed," Vega told Simard.
Wiggins offered a similar account saying "Nieves stepped on it and went into 'demon mode.' He yelled at him to slow down and saw the red light. By then it was too late, they crashed," according to Simard's report.
Also, Wiggins said he then remembers being pulled out of the passenger's side window of the car.
Friends and family held a vigil for Hernandez in the days after her death.
That morning, she was on her way to Wendy's on Winthrop Avenue to get food with a friend while her husband, Darwin Hernandez, was in the Dominican Republic with their children, ages 2 and 3.
Her sister-in-law, Elizabeth Hernandez, said Gabriela could be initially be shy with people she didn't know.
Once she warmed up to them, though Gabriela was warm and friendly.
"She always had a smile on her face," Elizabeth said, in an interview after the vigil.
Hernandez said she and Gabriela both shared a love of good food. Gabriela was an excellent cook and had perfected many Dominican dishes.
After a funeral service in Lawrence, Gabriela's body was returned to the Dominican Republic for burial.
Nieves is due back in court on June 24 for a hearing to determine whether he poses a danger to himself or others.
Defense attorney Eric Salach represented Nieves at his arraignment Thursday.
However, Salach noted Nieves will likely face indictment on the charges by the Essex County grand jury. If he is indicted, his case will be moved to superior court and another another attorney will be appointed to represent him.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.