Alleged speed racer charged with murder of Bakersfield woman, 19, bound for trial

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Aug. 4—A Kern County Superior Court judge held a Bakersfield man to answer to four charges, including second-degree murder and speed racing, Thursday in connection to a February collision that killed a 19-year-old woman in southwest Bakersfield.

Iqbal Singh was involved in a three-vehicle collision that left Bianca Flores, 19, dead, and a pregnant woman in another car injured, police said. Singh was held to answer Thursday to second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, assault with deadly force and engaging in an illegal speed contest by Kern County Superior Court Judge John Somers.

Defense attorney Tony Lidgett maintained it was unclear whether Singh engaged in a speed contest, and video evidence showed another alleged racer, a motorcyclist, cut off Singh, which resulted in him crashing head-on into Flores' car. The motorcyclist has not been apprehended by police, Sgt. Robert Pair, spokesman for the BPD, wrote in an email.

Police are still investigating the crash, and no additional arrests have been made, Pair noted.

Flores' family attended the hearing Thursday and wept as prosecutors talked about Flores' injuries and her autopsy. Emotions escalated as Flores' family exited the courtroom when Singh, who posted bail and is not in jail, did too.

"You are a coward for what you did," Flores' aunt Melinda Chiprez snapped at Singh, while adding Singh knows he is guilty.

Singh and his wife walked the other direction without uttering a word. A Punjabi translator was provided for Singh during court proceedings.

Deputy District Attorney William Schlaerth questioned Bakersfield Police Department Police Officer Zachary Burdick, who testified Flores, driving a Ford Focus, was struck on Panama Lane while going east.

Burdick said Singh was racing a motorcyclist while going west, when his car traveled into the eastbound lanes and struck Flores head-on. She died at the scene, according to the Kern County Coroner's Office. Kenya Orozco, a passenger in Flores' car, had to get nine stitches and suffered a bruised bladder, he testified.

Burdick testified Orozco told him it looked as if the motorcyclist was involved in a street race.

Flores' car became airborne and collided into a Kia Optima that was driven by a woman, according to a BPD probable cause statement filed in Kern County Superior Court. That pregnant woman complained of pain to her neck, back and right arm, Burdick said.

Burdick said Flores was going about 33 mph and Singh's car sped to 91 mph at the time of the collision. Video footage from a nearby smoke shop before the crash shows Singh and the motorcyclist going 85 mph, he added.

Defense attorney Lidgett questioned Burdick repeatedly about why police didn't collect footage from other businesses or residences to capture what happened that evening. Burdick obtained video from one storefront, but no other establishments. It is unclear what happened prior to the collision — the motorcyclist could have been chasing Singh, Lidgett added.

Burdick said the accident happened in an area surrounded with houses, and concrete walls along the roads. Police fanned out to area residents in hopes someone had surveillance footage to no avail, he said.

Lidgett kept pushing Burdick, while noting a person had died and yet his efforts' languished. Burdick said there are not enough officers to canvas every single business, interview witnesses, author search warrants and console victims.

Singh is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 15. Court records show Singh pleaded no contest in 2013 to a misdemeanor of driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol level above 0.08. He was sentenced to five days in jail, and three years of probation.

You can reach Ishani Desai at 661-395-7417. You can also follow her at @_ishanidesai on Twitter.