On a mid-December morning in 2007, Deanna Fridley, a 23-year-old housewife, got up and fed her kids, got them dressed, and smoked some meth.
“Midmorning sometime, yes. My cousin came over with some. We smoked it in my car outside…. It had to be before noon that I went to see Amber.”
Amber was Deanna’s best friend.
“She’d been talking with me three days prior to this and kept asking me if I wanted to go out. She knew what was going on between me and my husband. She knew I was very upset. She said, ‘We should go out and have a good time.’ She offered to pay for the babysitter. I had three little daughters.”
The young mother couldn’t go out partying with her little ones, so she drove around to find places to drop them off. “Yes, I had family that would watch them. It’s a small community, everybody knows each other, and each other’s family.”
Cousin Rhonda said she wasn’t feeling good and wouldn’t take the kids. But Aunt Susie agreed to watch the two older girls, but “not the baby.” Deanna next tried cousin Jesrel and his girlfriend. “We went to high school together. Sherman Indian High School.” They took the baby off Deanna’s hands.
Deanna drove to Valley Center where Amber lived. “Yes, I had to pick her up.”
Now the good times could begin.
“We went by Rincon first, kind of cruised by Amber’s cousin’s house. She has lots of cousins. Every home in Rincon is her family. And then we drove to the store. Amber wanted Crown Royal.” Deanna had never drunk Crown Royal, a Canadian whiskey. They also got a liter bottle of cola. “[Amber] mixed some drinks in a Coca-Cola bottle with the Crown Royal. I was sipping out of the bottle.
“We went to cruise around on the back roads. Yeah, just to cruise, listen to music. The back roads are just a bunch of different roads that take you more up into the canyons of the reservations, all around it.”
Later, they went back to buy another bottle of Crown Royal. “Amber wanted some [more], just in case the store closed. We live out there. There’s only one store, and it closes at a certain time.”
The women spent the afternoon together. “We were just riding around, riding around. We went by a few of Amber’s cousins on Rincon and Pala. We went by one of her cousins’, and she used the telephone there.”
Deanna was driving her new Yukon. “It was a Denali, it drove really nice. It handled very well.” She’d had it seven or eight months.
“On every reservation, there’s a ballpark. People, usually, when they are partying, they go to the ballpark, and they spin. Just kind of [driving] around in circles, like, spinning in the dirt.” It was something the friends could do together. “Amber had always spun. I didn’t know how to spin in my truck, she told me how to do it, and I was trying it.”
“We were just, I guess, trying to have fun.” Deanna forgot her troubles with her husband. “Okay, I wasn’t thinking about that right then, probably. I was probably feeling, you know, like we were having a good time.”
Throughout the day, Deanna drove back and forth on Highway 76.
They went to Pala Casino at about 7 o’clock; it was dark by then. They went into one of the bars there. “Yes, we did bring in our own alcohol. I was holding it. Me and Amber were wearing sweatshirts, and she had a Coke bottle that she had already mixed with alcohol, and I was carrying the Crown Royal, the bottle, in my sweater.”
Amber had her own troubles to forget. She was facing felony charges of driving under the influence and had injured three people. “I didn’t know the depth of it at all,” Deanna said. “I didn’t know that until later. She didn’t really talk to me about that. She did tell me that she was in an accident, and she was hurt, and she crawled up the embankment. She told me that she had been on some medication, some pills, and that she was drinking. And she wrecked.”
This is the reason Amber wasn’t driving.
Deanna knew she shouldn’t be driving either. Her license had been suspended since June 2005.
Best Friend Amber
Amber Arviso said she has known Deanna Fridley “since I’ve been nine.” They spoke and visited together often — “a lot, like, almost every day.” They couldn’t be closer. “I’m godmother to her child.”
When Deanna came over to her house on the afternoon of December 14 of 2007, she’d had a plan: go drink. Why did Deanna want to do that? “Just family problems. Between her and her husband. She needed to talk things out with me.”
They went for a ride. They went to the store. “I was talking to her a little bit.”
After they got a bottle of whiskey, they went to see some of Amber’s relations in Rincon. “My cousin, Dana, that’s about it…[I] used her phone, I used it outside. I called my brother from her phone.” Amber called her brother because they had plans. “We were going to kick back.”
Then Amber and Deanna went driving around another reservation. “Just cruised around Pala. That’s it, driving around. We were just looking for my brother.”
When CHP investigators later spoke with Amber, she said she’d smoked meth with Deanna that day. She said she’d given Deanna $50 to buy it. “Yeah, I had money,” Amber explained.
“Yeah, we smoked it,” Amber said. “We both did.” She said they’d smoked at night, not during the day. She wasn’t sure how many times. “Couple of times.”
Amber thought it was normal to drink and drive around and smoke meth. “Sometimes,” she said. “Not on a daily basis, just once in a while.”
Deanna later denied smoking meth with Amber that day; she did admit to smoking meth once, in the morning, outside her home.