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Elderly DUI suspect who avoided court passes away

The 84-year-old Palm Desert man who was charged in a crash that injured Adrian Grajeda on October 23, 2013, has passed away, according to his wife.

Evelyn Paterson confirmed Malcolm Paterson’s death with News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 Tuesday morning.

Malcolm was supposed to be back in court on February 23 after a psychologist had a chance to give him a mental evaluation, due to the fact he failed to appear in court four times. His wife blamed his repeated court absences on illness and said he began suffering from dementia shortly after the crash.

The fourth time Paterson failed to show to court, the sheriff’s department received word that he was hospitalized at Eisenhower Medical Center. Paterson was allowed to remain hospitalized and the sheriff’s department said it would bring him to court if he didn’t appear on his own accord when medically capable of doing so.

Paterson was accused of driving under the influence of alcohol in the crash that caused Lincoln Elementary student Adrian Grajeda, who was 10 years old at the time, to have part of his leg amputated after he was struck by debris from the collision.

Though a blood test showed Paterson’s blood-alcohol level was .04 percent, below the legal limit of 0.08 percent, his “actions throughout the events of the collision, combined with his measured (alcohol level), led me to believe that alcohol contributed to a mental impairment, making him unable to operate a motor vehicle in a safe manner,” sheriff’s Deputy John Cleary wrote in the declaration.

He was driving a Chevrolet Cruze south on Portola Avenue, approaching a red light at Magnesia Falls Drive when he “mistakenly pressed the accelerator rather than the brake pedal when approaching traffic stopped at an intersection,” according to prosecutors.

Then he “pressed harder on the accelerator without realizing his mistake,” according to a declaration filed in support of an arrest warrant. Paterson’s car collided with another vehicle, veered onto a sidewalk, crashed into a traffic signal and finally struck the steel perimeter fence of Abraham Lincoln Elementary School on Rutledge Way in Palm Desert.

There’s no word yet on the cause of Paterson’s death.

News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 spoke to Adrian’s mother Brandy on Tuesday afternoon. She said, “We are deeply affected by the death of Mr. Paterson and the fact that we never received closure.”

We’ll continue to provide more details as soon as we have them.

KESQ News Team

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