Murder charges were filed Wednesday against the Santa Maria man who killed two women during what prosecutors claim was a fatal DUI crash March 16 near Donovan Road and Miller Street.

Along with two counts of murder, Javier Artemio Cortes was charged with one count of driving with a blood alcohol level above California's 0.08% limit, according to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office. 

Cortes pleaded not guilty and denied all special allegations -- that he drove at an excessive speed, had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit, and caused great bodily injury to multiple people -- during his arraignment in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on Wednesday. 

Free on bond since March 25, Cortes was remanded to Santa Barbara County Jail at the conclusion of a bail review hearing, where Judge Patricia Kelly, who presided over both matters, increased bail for the 27-year-old Santa Maria man to $2 million.

The charges come more than three months after Atascadero residents Madison Elizabeth Coleman, 17, and Monica Gonzalez, 20, were killed in the crash.

Santa Maria police officers responded at 3 a.m. to reports of a collision near the intersection of Donovan Road and Miller Street.

Upon arrival, they found that Cortes' black car had slammed into the driver's side of a vehicle carrying four people.

Two of the occupants, later identified as Coleman and Gonzalez, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Passengers Kimberly Olivo and Makayla Angelique Everhart, who were in the vehicle with Coleman and Gonzalez, also were injured in the crash.

Cortes was arrested that morning on suspicion of DUI and vehicular manslaughter. According to the complaint, Cortes had a blood alcohol level of 0.17% at the time of the crash.  

The case is being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Madison Whitmore.

Attorney Paul Greco, hired to represent Cortes, said he intends to prove his client's innocence regarding the murder charges.

Both parties will return to Superior Court in Santa Maria on Thursday, June 20, to set dates for a preliminary hearing.

Reach reporter Mathew Burciaga at 805-739-2205 or mburciaga@leecentralcoastnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @mathewburciaga

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Reporter

Mathew Burciaga is a Santa Maria Times reporter who covers education, agriculture and public safety. Prior to joining the Times, Mathew ran a 114-year-old community newspaper in Wyoming. He owns more than 40 pairs of crazy socks from across the globe.

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