Driver in fiery Torrey Pines fatal pleads not guilty


City News Service

A suspected drunken driver pleaded not guilty Thursday to gross vehicular manslaughter and other charges stemming from a fiery rear-end collision on North Torrey Pines Road in which the other driver burned to death.

Michael Patrick Landri, a 30-year-old bartender, was ordered held on $150,000 bail.

Deputy District Attorney Renee Palermo told Judge David Szumowski that Jared Franklin Purton left work at Scripps Research Institute about 10:30 p.m. last Sunday and was southbound on North Torrey Pines Road when the defendant’s speeding car smashed into the back of the 33-year-old victim’s Volkswagen Passat, pushing the rear tires almost into the front of the sedan.

Both cars burst into flames and spun out of control in different directions, the prosecutor said.

A passerby pulled the defendant out of his Infiniti G35, but the victim remained trapped in his car, Palermo said. He said Purton - who was burned over 80 percent of his body - died at the scene.

Landri’s blood-alcohol content was measured at .16 percent - double the legal limit - after the crash, she said.

Police said Landri and a “very drunk” male passenger were on their way home from an employee Christmas party when the accident occurred.

The prosecutor said the defendant had no prior criminal record but recently got a speeding ticket for going more than 100 mph.

Palermo said Purton was an Australian citizen in San Diego County on a work visa.

Defense attorney Brad Patton said Landri - a bartender at a local hotel - lives in Carmel Valley with his girlfriend.

About 40 friends and family members of the defendant attended the court hearing.

Should he make bail, Landri is to stay away from places that serve alcohol and attend five Alcoholics Anonymous meetings per week, the judge said.

If convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI causing injury and reckless driving causing injury, Landri faces 10 years in state prison.