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Man accused in Indio hit-and-run crash that left five-year-old in ICU pleads not guilty

A felon accused in a hit-and-run crash that injured an Indio woman and her 5-year-old son pleaded not guilty today to one felony count of hit-and-run involving injury or death.

Jesus Mario Noriega, 31, of Indio, is accused in the Feb. 4 crash reported in the area of Indio Boulevard and Fred Waring Drive in Indio.    

He was arraigned at the Banning Justice Center before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Alfonso Fernandez, who set the defendant's bail at $50,000 and scheduled a felony settlement conference for Feb. 24 at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

Noriega remains behind bars at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

The crash was reported at about 4:30 p.m. last Thursday. The mother and child had to be removed from her crumpled Toyota Camry after it was struck by a Toyota Highlander that was gone when rescue crews arrived, according to Indio Police Department spokeswoman Ben Guitron.   

The child's mother was hospitalized with bruising, but her son was airlifted to a Riverside hospital with serious injuries, the boy's father told News Channel 3's Shelby Nelson last week.

The five-year-old had to be placed on a ventilator in the intensive care unit. Family reported that he is now "out of danger" and is continuing to recover.

According to defense attorney Gregory Johnson, the police report says the boy suffered a punctured lung and spinal damage.    

Family has started a GoFundMe raising money for the boy's recover. Click here to visit the page.

Authorities identified Noriega as the alleged hit-and-run driver based on "investigative leads and help from the public,'' Guitron said.    

He was charged in the crime while in custody on unrelated criminal allegations of possessing a controlled substance and violating a court order,
jail records show.   

Noriega has prior felony convictions in Riverside County, including grand theft and vehicle theft.

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