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Man may have caused Metrolink crash for wife

(The Associated Press circulated the following article on February 18.)

GLENDALE, Calif. (AP) -- The man charged with killing 11 people on a commuter train by allegedly parking a truck in its path wasn't trying to commit suicide but wanted to create a ``horrific tragedy,'' according to police.

Authorities initially said Juan Manuel Alvarez was planning to kill himself when he allegedly parked his truck on railroad tracks where it was struck by a Metrolink train carrying commuters to downtown Los Angeles on Jan. 26. It was believed he had lost his nerve and fled the truck before the train hit it and derailed.

``Although first impressions led us to believe Mr. Alvarez was attempting to commit suicide, the investigation has revealed that his actions are not consistent with that of an individual who is attempting to follow through with that act,'' Police Chief Randy Adams told reporters Thursday.

``Although Mr. Alvarez may have contemplated suicide, his actions were deliberate with the intent of causing a horrific tragedy,'' Adams added.

Alvarez wanted to gain the attention of his wife, Carmelita Alvarez, said Sgt. Tom Lorenz, a police spokesman. The couple had separated and Alvarez's wife had obtained a restraining order against him.

Defense attorney Eric Chase denounced the officials' remarks.

``The statements of the Glendale police today are not only vicious and callous but are a reckless distortion of the facts,'' Chase said in a statement. ``If they want to make this case about, as they say, Juan Alvarez's intent to cause a horrific tragedy, I hope they can back it up. Apparently the Glendale police have not seen enough blood and are hungry for more.''

Alvarez, 25, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 11 counts of murder and a charge of arson causing great bodily injury in the Metrolink crash and subsequent fire. The charges also include special circumstances of multiple murders and murder caused by train derailment, but prosecutors have not decided whether to seek the death penalty.

Alvarez was ordered jailed without bail pending a March 16 preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to try him.

Authorities, who previously released few details about the arson charge, said Thursday that witnesses reported seeing a man park next to the tracks and douse a vehicle with liquid. Lorenz said Alvarez told police he poured gasoline on and inside the vehicle

The case's lead detective, Lt. Jon Perkins, said police asked Alvarez what he thought would happen if a vehicle was left in the path of an oncoming train.

``He basically stated that he thought there would be an explosion,'' Perkins said.

Friday, February 18, 2005

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