False confession: Case dismissed against 16-year-old charged after crash killed Uber passenger

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Jesus Cardenas-Torres

Jesus Cardenas-Torres

MILWAUKEE -- Charges were dismissed Thursday, April 18 against a 16-year-old boy arrested and charged in connection with a crash that killed Marlyn Hernandez, 22, who was a passenger in an Uber that was struck by a stolen vehicle near 21st and Orchard on March 22.

"Mr. Cardenas-Torres was charged originally in this case due to a confession that he falsely made," said Gregory Isaac, defense attorney.

Cardenas-Torres was charged as an adult with two felonies -- knowingly operating a vehicle without a valid license, causing death, and knowingly operating a vehicle without a valid license, causing great bodily harm.

Gregory Isaac

Gregory Isaac

In court on Thursday, the state moved to dismiss the case without prejudice after additional investigation and both charges were dismissed. Cardenas-Torres' mother told FOX6 the last few weeks had been difficult, and she believes her son did not want to tell on the driver -- and instead, took the blame himself.

Officials with the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office said another juvenile claimed responsibility. Isaac said Cardenas-Torres later denied he was behind the wheel, and forensic testing of the stolen vehicle substantiated the fact that he was not the driver.

"The DA did more of an investigation to determine who the actual driver of the car was," said Isaac.

A spokesperson for the family of Marlyn Hernandez issued this statement:

"The family of Cristian Marlyn Hernandez appreciates the community support. At this point we are seeking justice, and we think the city of Milwaukee needs to do something about the youth's actions and consequences they need to face for their actions. "

"This is bigger than this case, the community is greatly affected by situations like these that happen more often than we realize and it's time something is done."

"How many more lives need to be taken before this is a priority to Milwaukee?"

The person who came forward claiming they were driving is a juvenile and will likely be prosecuted at the juvenile level. It's unclear whether Cardenas-Torres will face charges for lying to authorities.

Charges were filed against Cardenas-Torres on March 22. According to the criminal complaint, two officers were on patrol around 1:30 a.m. on March 22 when they saw an SUV speeding. They began to try to catch up to it to follow it. They saw the vehicle turn onto Greenfield Avenue at S. 23rd Street.

Fatal crash near 21st and Orchard in Milwaukee

The complaint said pole cameras in the area showed the SUV made turns at intersections -- eventually "going eastbound on W. Orchard Avenue, where, in the intersection at 20th and Orchard Street, it disregarded a stop sign, entered the intersection, and struck a Pontiac that was legally entering the intersection from the right. It struck the Pontiac in T-bone fashion."

Fatal crash near 21st and Orchard in Milwaukee

Marlyn Hernandez

The officers arrived on the scene a short time later, saw Cardenas-Torres exiting the driver's side of the SUV and "immediately took him into custody." A passenger in the SUV was removed by police -- but that person, identified as a juvenile, declined to talk to police.

Two people remained in the Pontiac -- but a third person in that vehicle had been ejected and was lying nearby.

The driver of the Pontiac was an Uber driver -- and suffered broken ribs, cuts, and pain to a knee and neck.

The person who was ejected from the vehicle suffered multiple injuries, but survived.

The passenger that remained in the Pontiac was taken to a hospital, where she later died. She was later identified as 22-year-old Marlyn Hernandez of Milwaukee.

Cardenas-Torres spoke with a detective -- and "admitted driving the white SUV during the accident at 20th and Orchard on March 22." He indicated "he did not have a driver's license and knew he was not allowed to drive," the complaint said. Cardenas-Torres also "made reference to a recent incident where police pulled him over as he was driving a car and gave him tickets." Records show these tickets were issued on Jan. 7 -- and included a citation for operating after suspension.

Days after the crash, FOX6 News spoke with family members of Cardenas-Torres -- his aunt and brother -- who said the young man wasn't responsible for the death of Hernandez.

"He is innocent. He has no reason to be locked up," said Cardenas-Torres' aunt. "He has a baby and he has no reason to be without his father. The baby really needs his father. We feel so much, um, pain on her side too. That was bad what happened. We are all sad because that reason. He was really not driving. He was in the back seat."

"I know who it was. My brother told me everything. My brother was in the back seat and when it crashed, he hit his head against the side of the window and went unconscious and messed up his neck and inside his stomach," said Cardenas-Torres' brother.

"They should be out there looking for the real one, the real killer, the one that was driving the vehicle," said Cardenas-Torres' aunt.

In addition to Cardenas-Torres, a 13-year-old was arrested at the scene, charged with being a passenger in a stolen vehicle.

Again -- charges have been dismissed against Cardenas-Torres.

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