Brandon Hernández 9:22 a.m., May 24
Defense is expected to begin their case today, in a two-week trial for 34-year-old Debbie Pacheco Sumi.
The petite woman is charged with killing three persons on the side of highway 78 more than two years ago.
An “accident reconstruction specialist” testified yesterday that the Jeep was traveling between 70 and 78 miles per hour when it rammed into the back of a black Nissan Altima that had stopped on the side of the freeway. The Jeep then tumbled down the road, flipping an undetermined amount of times, until it came to rest on its roof, against the center divider of the highway.
Prosecutors say it was Debbie Pacheco Sumi driving, just after midnight, early August 13, 2010. She was apparently thrown clear of the white Jeep Grand Cherokee and survived the crash. The other person in the Jeep, Sumi’s boyfriend, 34-year-old Larry Alvarez, was killed.
Two of the four persons in or near the parked Nissan were killed. That car stopped because one person felt sick, a survivor testified.
Defense attorney Lindsay Itzhaki disputes that her client was the driver.
Forensic expert Ed Phillips testified yesterday, “Rarely do I see people ejected out through a windshield.” The man in the Jeep was found partially ejected out the windshield, and he was trapped under the overturned vehicle and crushed to death. Because of the location of the body, the expert stated, “It tells me very clearly, he’s got to be the right front passenger, unrestrained.”
That 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee was not equipped with air bags.
There has also been testimony that the driver’s seat of the Jeep was adjusted for a “short stature” person. Debbie Pacheco Sumi is described as 4 feet 9 inches tall. The other occupant of the Jeep, the deceased man, was described as 5 feet 11.5 inches tall.
Debbie Pacheco Sumi was arrested later the same night, at hospital. Her blood alcohol content was tested at .348, a level which could cause death, according to an expert who testified yesterday. Criminalist Jorge Pena, who works for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Crime Lab, seemed to suggest that defendant Sumi must have been an habitual drinker to withstand such intoxication.
Trial is expected to continue today, Tuesday October 16, in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse.