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LINCOLN â€“ The wrong-way driver who caused a crash in which he and two passengers in another car perished on Route 146 Sunday was the target of an active arrest warrant for failure to answer charges of driving without a license, court records say.
A District Court judge had issued the bench warrant for Aldo M. Almanzar, 39, when he failed to appear for arraignment on North Smithfield police charges of driving without a license on Feb. 26.
Almanzar, whose last known address was in North Smithfield, had been arrested at least three other times for driving without a license since March 2004, and had a lengthy criminal history that included drug charges, drunk driving and other infractions that date back some two decades, according to the judiciaryâ€™s web site.
Rhode Island State Police Cpl. Jay Gibbs said police are investigating whether alcohol or drugs were a factor in the early-morning crash, but it could be a week before they can say one way or the other.
â€śWe have our accident reconstruction team working on it and weâ€™re waiting for autopsy results from the state medical examiner,â€ť said Gibbs.
State police say Almanzar drove more than a mile heading southbound in the northbound lane of Route 146 when his Toyota Camry crashed head-on into a Honda Accord operated by 30-year-old Andrew Hilow, of Worcester, Mass. Police said Hilow suffered minor injuries while two passengers in his car were killed. They were Alexis Correa and his girlfriend, Isabel Vasquez, both 21, also of Worcester.
Hilow and Correa, a front seat passenger, were both wearing seatbelts, but Vasquez, seated in the rear, was not. Almanzar was not wearing a seatbelt, either, according to police.
The crash occurred 593 feet south of Route 99 at 3:07 a.m. state police said.
Correaâ€™s Facebook page says he worked at Wal-Mart and studied at Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester. The Worcester Telegram quoted the schoolâ€™s track coach as saying that Correa was member of the track team at Doherty and still held the school record in the 4-by-100 relay.
Correaâ€™s strong emotional bond to his mother was apparent from his Facebook page. In one recent post addressed to her, he wrote, â€śJust want to say happy birthday to my beautiful mother I love you so much you are the most positive figure in my life without you I donâ€™t know where I would be right now thank you for keeping me out of trouble I love you more than words can express happy birthday.â€ť
Vasquez also had a young daughter for whom Correa openly expressed feelings of fatherly love on his Facebook page.
North Smithfield police did not return telephone calls about Almanzar, who had had contact with numerous law enforcement agencies in the past, including the state police.
The judiciaryâ€™s web site says the North Smithfield police arrested him previously for driving without a license in 2012.
In February 2009, Almanzar pleaded no contest to state police charges of drunken driving and driving without a license. He pleaded no contest to another state police charge for the latter offense the following month.
In March 2004, he pleaded no contest to the same charges lodged against him by the Pawtucket police.
Court records indicate that he was never sentenced to any jail time for charges of driving without a license.
In May 2004, however, Almanzar was sentenced to 42 months at the Adult Correctional Institutions for possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver, the in-jail portion of a 15-year sentence that was otherwise suspended, with probation. He was also sentenced to three years probation in June 2005 on Providence police charges of possession of a controlled substance, and in June 2000 he got three yearsâ€™ probation for assaulting a uniformed policeman.
Follow Russ Olivo on Twitter @russolivo