A new preliminary hearing for the case involving a Santa Maria man accused of drunken driving and killing two people in a crash on Highway 154 will be set next month at the Santa Maria Superior Court. 

Rigoberto Gracida, 30, also identified earlier as Rigoberto Gracida Paucene, will return to court Jan. 25 to set a new date, at the request of his new defense attorney, Erica Sutherland.

Deputy District Attorney Cory Graves is prosecuting the case. 

Gracida faces felony DUI causing injury and driving under the influence with over 0.08 blood alcohol content causing injury.

He is also charged with misdemeanor driving on a suspended license and a vehicle infraction of unlawful turning movement, according to the complaint filed Tuesday by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office. 

He faces the special allegation of causing great bodily injury to four victims in connection to the incident.

Gracida pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon. 

At 2 a.m. Sunday, Santa Barbara County Fire crews were dispatched to a report of a traffic collision on Highway 154 on the S-curve east of Zaca Station Road, officials said. Upon arrival, officials found multiple cars off the roadway, and extensive extrication was required to rescue the patients. Two people -- Hamilton Bonilla, 35, and Antonio Bautista Santiago, 50, both of Santa Maria -- were pronounced dead at the scene. 

Others who sustained injuries include Aurelio Salvador Zaragoza and Rocael Antonio Pedro, who were taken to a local hospital. 

According to California Highway Patrol, just before 2 a.m. Gracida was traveling in his 2007 Nissan SUV eastbound on Highway 154 east of Zaca Station at an unknown rate of speed. Gracida had reportedly allowed his car to cross onto oncoming westbound traffic before crashing into a 2001 Honda accord traveling westbound.

Bonilla was identified as the driver of the Accord. Inside his car were passengers Pedro, 32 of Santa Maria, and Ricio Arroyo Cortes, 29, also from Santa Maria. 

The impact caused the Nissan to roll onto its roof before being struck from behind by a 2000 Dodge minivan driven by Zaragoza, 43, of Santa Maria. Inside his minivan was Santiago. 

Gracida was treated for minor injuries, then arrested on suspicion of DUI. His felony complaint alleges he had a blood alcohol content level of 0.1. 

Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210


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