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Angry driver planned to ‘run the red light’ prior to deadly crash at 97 mph, police say

The driver was fighting with his girlfriend prior to a June 6 crash in Wyoming that killed a 78-year old grandmother and injured several others, police say.

WYOMING, Mich. — A driver who reportedly told his girlfriend during an argument he was going to “run the red light’’ at a busy Wyoming intersection is charged with second-degree murder for a June 6 crash that killed an elderly Coopersville woman and injured several others.

A vehicle driven by Ruben Isabel Cavasos was travelling at 97 mph when it struck the other vehicle at the intersection of 44th Street and Byron Center Avenue SW. Four people were taken to the hospital.

Jean M. Lieffers, 78, was a passenger in the vehicle struck by Cavasos. She died from her injuries several days later.

Cavasos, 41, has an extensive criminal record, which includes convictions for domestic violence and felonious assault.

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He was arraigned Tuesday, July 14 for second-degree murder, a potential life offense, and two counts of reckless driving causing serious impairment of a body function, which carries a five-year term. 

A Wyoming District Court judge set bond at $250,000; Cavasos is being held in the Kent County Jail.

Cavasos had been drinking alcohol and using marijuana the day of the crash, court records show. He was leaving a party with his girlfriend and they were arguing about his behavior towards another female at the party, a Wyoming officer wrote in a probable cause affidavit. He was heading west on 44th Street SW. 

Cavasos “became angry and told her he was going to run the red light at the intersection with Byron Center Avenue,’’ the officer wrote. “Defendant then did go through the red light and struck a vehicle which was just entering the intersection.’’

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Investigators say Cavasos was travelling at 91 mph five seconds before the crash with the accelerator at 99%. “At the time of the crash, the defendant was travelling at 97 mph.’’

After impact, the Cavasos vehicle careened into the median barrier and rolled. Two other vehicles were struck.

Wyoming Police Lt. Eric Wiler says witnesses to the June 6th crash came forward and assisted in the investigation.

“Occupants of several other cars there were willing to talk with us and give us information on what they saw,’’ Wiler said. “That really helped us conduct a thorough investigation.’’

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Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said a charge of second-degree murder isn’t usually filed in traffic fatalities. The circumstances of this case, he said, warranted the charge.

“The elements of second-degree murder are intent to kill, intent to do great bodily harm or take some action that the natural tendency of that action would cause death or great bodily harm,’’ he said. 

Cavasos is no stranger to the criminal justice system. He has prior driving violations, including drunk driving.

Other offenses include larceny of a firearm, which sent him to prison. He was discharged from probation in 2018 for malicious destruction of property, domestic violence and felonious assault convictions in Kent County.

Because of his past, Cavasos, who has an address on the Northwest Side of Grand Rapids, is also charged as a habitual offender.

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