An elderly Valley Center couple in their late 70’s were killed early Sunday when a suspected drunken driver ran off the road and struck the couple while they were on a walk. Neighbors in the area identified the victims as Carl and Eunice Ackermann, who had a daily ritual of walking hand-in-hand in the mornings around the Valley Center community.
According to the initial findings of an ongoing California Highway Patrol investigation, the accident occurred around 6:15 a.m. when a 2011 Toyota Corolla veered off of Old Castle Road struck the pedestrian couple, a 79-year-old man and 78-year-old woman. The California Highway Patrol confirmed that Earl Smith, Jr., 20, of Oceanside, was arrested at the scene and taken to the Vista detention center where he was booked on suspicion of felony driving under the influence of alcohol and vehicular manslaughter.
Valley Center community members were in shock as they learned of the couple’s death, many noting the couple’s endearing ritual of holding hands and collecting trash during their daily walks. The California Highway Patrol and community residents also noted that this particular area of Old Castle Road was an accident hot spot, which has seen a dramatic increase in activity given the recent opening of several casinos in close proximity.