Photo: File photo of suspect Joseph Robert Hendrix | Butte County District Attorney’s Office
A judge has found sufficient evidence to hold Joseph Robert Hendrix, a 58-year-old man from Oroville, California, to answer for a jury trial on a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. The charges stem from an incident that took place on February 16, 2022, when Hendrix was driving his 2018 Dodge Challenger west on Oro Dam Boulevard in Oroville, and crashed into the driver’s side of a 2011 Chevrolet sedan driven by Maria Barajas-Medina, 52, who was turning east onto Oro Dam Boulevard from 10th Street. Barajas-Medina died at the scene of the collision.
During the preliminary hearing held in Butte County Superior Court, evidence was presented to show that Hendrix was driving at 103 mph just before he applied his brakes and then slammed into Barajas-Medina’s driver’s door. An examination of Hendrix’s “black box” showed that he was traveling at an extremely high speed just before the crash.
According to Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, Hendrix’s blood test results showed an extremely high level of methamphetamine. A female passenger in Hendrix’s car and Hendrix survived the collision with minimal injuries. The passenger testified at the preliminary hearing that as Hendrix came off the Oro Dam Boulevard bridge over the Feather River headed west, he believed he saw police behind him and suddenly sped up to avoid them. There were no officers in the area at the time, Ramsey said, noting that Hendrix was on parole at the time.
Ramsey said Hendrix was also charged with a special allegation that he has suffered two prior violent sexual assault “strike” convictions, which could result in up to possibly 20 years to life in prison.
Hendrix’s next court appearance is on May 24, 2023, for the setting of his jury trial. He remains in Butte County Jail without bail after the District Attorney’s Office filed a “no bail” motion to keep him in custody given his risk to public safety.