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Cathedral City

Palm Springs Man Charged With Felony Hit-and-Run for Allegedly Striking Pedestrian in Cathedral City

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Cathedral City, CA -

A 21-year-old Indian national who allegedly struck a pedestrian with his car near the "Candy Cane Lane" area of Cathedral City, leaving her fighting for her life, was charged with felony hit-and-run Thursday.

Arvinder Singh Cheema was arrested Saturday in connection with the Dec. 21 hit-and-run in the 68200 block of Bella Vista Road. The crash scene is not far from the elaborately decorated homes on Minerva Road, known as "Candy Cane Lane" during the holiday season.

Deputy District Attorney Scot Clark said the 40-year-old victim -- identified only as Melanie A. in court documents -- remains hospitalized in "very grave" condition, adding that Cheema could end up facing vehicular manslaughter charges if she does not recover.

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Cheema pleaded not guilty to one count of hit-and-run, as well as two counts of dissuading witnesses, and had his bail increased to $300,000 at the request of prosecutors, who alleged that Cheema told Cathedral City police officers that he would flee to his home country of India as soon as he got out of jail. Clark said the alleged statements made Cheema, whose bail was initially set at $50,000, "a flight risk of the highest order."

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Harold Hopp also ordered Cheema to turn in his passport if released from custody.

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Cheema was arrested at his Palm Springs home about 8 p.m. Dec. 23, after police received "multiple tips from residents" that helped identify him as the alleged driver of the yellow Camaro seen speeding away from the crash scene, Cathedral City police Cmdr. Julio Luna said.

Court records show that Cheema was also charged in October with a misdemeanor count of driving without a license, but never appeared for arraignment, prompting a judge to issue a bench warrant for his arrest last month.

Cheema will return to court Jan. 9 for a felony settlement conference.   

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