East Palo Alto man charged with stealing car pleads not guilty by insanity


An East Palo Alto man accused of stealing a friend's car and driving it recklessly in a September 2014 incident has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Prosecutors said Luis Alonso Cuellar, 31, met with his friend, a woman, at about 12:30 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2014, outside her friend's Menalto Avenue home in East Palo Alto. When the woman went inside the house to use the bathroom, Cueller allegedly took her car keys, which she had left on the hood of the car, and drove off. Cuellar struck a parked Cadillac on Alberni Street, and fled speeding through East Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

Police officers saw him driving recklessly and attempted to pull him over. Cuellar ditched the vehicle and ran, according to prosecutors. The officers chased after him and caught him hiding in the backyard of a Carlton Avenue residence, prosecutors said.

Cuellar is charged with felony car theft, misdemeanor hit-and-run, misdemeanor reckless driving and a misdemeanor for resisting arrest, as well as misdemeanor counts for driving with a suspended license because of a DUI-related offense, refusing to submit to DUI-related tests and excessive moving violations.

Superior Court Judge Leland Davis ordered a psychiatric analysis of Cuellar, who is in custody on $10,000 bail. The report is to be provided at a March 27 hearing, at which time a jury trial date may be set.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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