Mental Illness History in Deadly Wrong-Way Crash Suspect in Santa Cruz

A horrifying accident last week in which a wrong-way driver plowed down a crowd of people resulted in the death of 48-year-old Ana Luz Barajas of Santa Cruz.

Police say 28-year-old Eric Rsel Weers of Soquel deliberately drove into the crowd, and he faces charges including murder. But Weers’ public defender say the man has a history of mental illness- and while the defendant has no criminal history, his background of mental illness is extensive and well-documented:

Bill Weigel, Weers’ public defender, said Weers had a “major mental illness” and had been in a locked mental health institution outside Santa Cruz County in the past year. Weers has no criminal record outside of traffic violations, according to court records.

“Eric has been institutionalized quite a number of times due to mental illness and his family has struggled with it,” Weigel said.

Since the crash last week, Weers has been reportedly catatonic in his jail cell, where he is being held in lieu of $1 million bail. Weigel commented on the arrest:

“I know that the (Weers) family is grieving for the Barajas family and also for their son,” Weigel said. “It’s very sad, it is an absolute tragedy. Not every tragedy is a crime though.”

If convicted, Weers faces 15 years to life in prison.