GLENDALE, Calif. – Los Angeles prosecutors on Thursday charged the suicidal man believed to have caused a deadly train crash with 10 counts of murder.
Juan Manuel Alvarez (search), 25, will also face an 11th murder count for a victim found late Wednesday night. A 12th person who was missing and presumed dead Thursday morning was later accounted for, officials said.
District Attorney Steve Cooley (search) said Alvarez faces charges of murder with the "special circumstances" of committing multiple murders through a train derailment. If convicted of the murders plus the special circumstances, under California law jurors must sentence him with either the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
Alvarez left his Jeep Cherokee on a railroad track in a Los Angeles suburb Wednesday morning after abandoning an attempt to take his life, only to launch the horrific chain reaction that killed at least 11 people and injured more than 180 others, authorities said. He was held without bail at a hospital's jail ward under suicide watch and was listed in stable condition.
Alvarez's arraignment was postponed to Friday due to his medical condition. Glendale police said he was cooperating, but would not release his suspect statement.
Earlier Thursday, Cooley had said that "the state of mind of the suspect is a central issue, what led him to do whatever acts he did do."
But, he later told the Associated Press, "He's not going to engage my sympathy because he was despondent. His despondency doesn't move me."
Alvarez, who has a history of suicidal behavior and minor crimes, stabbed himself and slit his wrists before driving his SUV onto the railroad tracks, authorities said.
The vehicle became stuck between tracks away from a crossing and once there, he could not have moved it even if he had tried, Metrolink (search) CEO David Solow said. The southbound train that struck it bolted skyward, hit a parked Union Pacific (search) railcar, then clipped the northbound train.
The crash was the worst U.S. rail tragedy since March 15, 1999, when an Amtrak (search) train hit a truck and derailed near Bourbonnais, Ill., killing 11 people and injuring more than 100.
'A Complete Nightmare'
Firefighters ended recovery efforts by early afternoon. All but one of the dead had been identified.
Among the two women and nine men killed was Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy James Tutino, 47, who was on his way to work. Law enforcement officers and firefighters saluted as his flag-draped body was carried from the site.
About two dozen people were hospitalized in critical condition.
The force of the collision, which happened about 6 a.m., hurled passengers down the trains' aisles.
"I heard a noise. It got louder and louder," said Diane Brady, 56, of Simi Valley. "And next thing I knew the train tilted, everyone was screaming and I held onto a pole for dear life. I held on for what seemed like a week and a half, it seemed. It was a complete nightmare."
First on the scene were workers at a Costco store next to the tracks, who helped remove some of the injured in shopping carts. Uninjured passengers also joined the rescue effort. As a light rain fell, more than 300 firefighters climbed ladders into windows of battered train cars to rescue the injured.
Costco employee Hugo Moran said an elderly man, covered in blood and soot and with apparently broken arms and legs, was pulled out of the wreckage but died soon after. Before he died, he thanked his rescuers and asked them to pray for him.
Another trapped man had used his own blood to write a note on a seat bottom. Using the heart symbol, he wrote "I love my kids" and "I love Leslie."
The man's identity wasn't known, but Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Capt. Rex Vilaubi said he was removed from the wreckage alive.
'One Crazed Individual'
Officials were still upset and angry about the cause of the crash.
"I hope that we're able to assess this in a way that we can figure out: Is there a way that we can stop one crazed individual from creating this kind of carnage?" Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn told reporters.
Early Thursday, another suicidal man was arrested in Orange County after he parked his sport utility vehicle on railroad tracks, said Irvine police Cmdr. Dave Freedland. He drove off after he was spotted by police, and a dispatcher talked him out of suicide during a cell phone call, authorities said. Freedland declined to say if the incident was considered a copycat crime.
Alvarez's estranged wife, Carmelita Alvarez, had ordered him out of her home months ago, her family said, and in December she obtained a temporary restraining order keeping him away from her, their 3-year-old son and other family members.
"He is using drugs and has been in and out of rehab twice," she said in asking for the restraining order. "He threatened to take our kid away and to hurt my family members." She said he was "planning on selling his vehicle to buy a gun and threatened to use it."
Carmelita Alvarez, who lives in a converted garage behind her sister's home in suburban Compton, also told the court her husband had threatened to seek revenge on people he suspected of introducing her to another man. She said his drug use was triggering hallucinations.
She went into seclusion shortly after the crash.
"Whether we make any comment right now depends on my sister," her brother, Ruben Ochoa, told The Associated Press outside the family home on Wednesday. "We're not commenting right now."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.