A 25-year-old transient was arrested after stealing a hearse with a body inside and leading police on a chase. According to reports, a mortuary worker was in the process of delivering two dead bodies to the St. Anthony Greek Orthodox Church in East Pasadena when the alleged crime occurred. The worker left the vehicle in front of the church with the keys in the ignition as he was bringing one of the two bodies inside. When he came out, the SUV with the other body inside was gone.
Police were initially unable to locate the SUV until they received a tip from someone at 7:35 am the following day. The tip stated that the vehicle was seen near Figueroa and 23rd Street. Police located the vehicle-with the driver inside-shortly after receiving the tip and tried to perform a stop, but the driver sped off and led police on a chase that ended on the 110 Freeway when the suspect crashed the vehicle.
The suspect, James Juarez, was arrested and charged with fleeing police while driving recklessly and driving or taking a vehicle without consent. He is being held in lieu of $35,000 bail. The vehicle was impounded and the remaining corpse was taken to a mortuary.
Taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent is colloquially known as “joyriding” and is covered under California Vehicle Code 10851 VC. The offense is a “wobbler” that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The crime differs from grand theft auto (California Penal Code 487 PC) in that it involves stealing a vehicle without the intention of keeping it for very long. With GTA, most of the time the suspects intend to deprive the owner of its use for an extended period of time. The penalties for felony “joyriding” includes up to 3 years in county jail.
The other crime, felony evading a police officer in a vehicle, is covered under California Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC and is described as willfully evading a police officer (while driving) when the officer is pursuing in a vehicle or on a bike. The crime is a misdemeanor with the possible penalties including up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.