Three teens killed in crash with suspected drunken driver

Trinity Watt, left, Makayla Tryon and Madison Capobianco in school photos (Courtesy/Salem-Keizer School District)

A Salem man is facing manslaughter charges after allegedly causing a crash that killed three Salem and Keizer teens Sunday night near Salem Parkway and Cherry Avenue Northeast.

Juan Carlos Rodriguez Palacios, 25, is accused of running a red light in a Jeep Wrangler and colliding just before midnight with a Toyota Camry driven by one of the teens at Cherry Avenue Northeast, the Salem Police Department said in a news release.

All three of the occupants – Trinity Watt, 19, of Salem; Madison Capobianco, 19, of Salem; and Makayla Tryon, 18, of Keizer died at the scene.

Salem police spokesman Lt. Treven Upkes said Rodriguez Palacios’ vehicle collided with the passenger side of the teens’ vehicle. Upkes could not say how fast Rodriguez Palacios was driving.

The three were former students at Roberts High School, Salem-Keizer’s alternative high school, district spokeswoman Lillian Govus said.

Tryon earned a GED from the district’s downtown learning center during the 2016-17 school year.

Capobiano and Watt attended classes through a program on the Chemeketa Community College campus. Watt was enrolled this year but last came to class in January, and Capobiano last attended in 2016-17.

Rodriguez Palacios was transported to Salem Health for treatment and later charged with three counts of first-degree manslaughter, four counts of recklessly endangering another person, third-degree assault, reckless driving and driving under the influence of intoxicants. 

Police said Rodriguez Palacios’ blood-alcohol level was 0.239 when tested, about three times the legal limit of 0.08.

Marion County court records show Rodriguez Palacios was involved in a drunk driving accident in 2015 and was charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving, failure to perform the duties of a driver and three counts of recklessly endangering another person.

He pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and was placed in diversion. Records show he completed the diversion requirements and the charge was then dismissed. He pleaded guilty to reckless driving and failure to perform the duties of a driver. The three counts of recklessly endangering another person were dismissed.

He is lodged at the Marion County Correctional Facility. His arraignment is scheduled for 3 p.m. June 4.

The last triple-fatality car crash in Marion or Polk counties occurred June 2018, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation. Before that, three people died in a crash in October 2017 in Marion County.

The agency said there have been 21 crashes at the intersection of Salem Parkway and Cherry Avenue Northeast, but no crashes causing deaths or major injuries, dating back to 2008.

Saphara Harrell: [email protected] or 503-549-6250


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Rodriguez Palacios (Marion County Sheriff’s Office)