Driver in alleged Albany hit and run now facing murder charge

March 28, 2013
Updated 9:38 p.m.
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— Charges against the Schenectady man accused in an Albany hit-and-run accident that killed a bicyclist have now been increased to murder, the Albany County District Attorney’s office said Thursday.

The announcement came with the handing up Thursday of the indictment against the driver Pablo Cruz.

Cruz, 39, of formerly of 1060 Helderberg Ave., Schenectady, was indicted on a top count of second-degree murder. He also faces lesser charges of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and second-degree vehicular manslaughter, as well as other charges.

The murder charge carries a sentence of up to 25 years to life in state prison, if convicted.

Prosecutors said the murder count is based on allegations that Cruz acted “with depraved indifference” to human life that morning when he fled police at high speed while driving intoxicated, and recklessly caused the death of 45-year-old bicyclist Paul J. Merges Jr.

Cruz struck Merges on Manning Boulevard in Albany early on the morning of Nov. 24. Merges’ body, entangled in the truck’s ladder rack above the smashed windshield, wasn’t recovered until the truck stopped working, more than a dozen miles west in Rotterdam.

Merges was a father of two and a longtime state employee.

Police said Cruz was drunk and speeding while being pursued by an Albany County sheriff’s investigator. He didn’t even slow down after striking Merges, police said. Instead, he sped up.

Cruz was released from prison earlier in November after serving 21 months of a 24-month sentence on a drug conviction.

He has been in custody since his arrest. He is to be arraigned on the new indictment Thursday.

In addition to the top counts, Cruz faces felony counts of leaving the scene of fatal accident without reporting, first-degree unlawfully fleeing a police officer, two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, as well as misdemeanor driving while intoxicated and several other misdemeanors.

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