Shelli DeRobertis 9:19 p.m., May 22
A jury declared Debbie Pacheco Sumi guilty of three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, today, after a two week trial.
Three persons were killed on the side of highway 78 two years ago, in August 2010, when a Jeep ran into the back of a Nissan parked on the shoulder of the road.
Debbie Pacheco Sumi was thrown clear of the wreck, and her back was reportedly broken in two places, but she survived to stand trial. Through her public defender, Sumi denied being the driver at the time of the collision. The other person in the Jeep, her boyfriend Larry Alvarez, 34, did not survive the crash.
The two other persons killed, Susana Orozco and Erica Oliva, both 23, were standing near the black Nissan Altima when it was struck. A survivor testified that the Nissan pulled over onto the side of the road because one of the women felt sick.
Sumi’s blood alcohol level was tested at hospital that night and the result was .348, an unusually high level which experts said could be considered lethal. Prosecutor Jodi Breton said the high BAL is one of the reasons she will request that Sumi be sentenced to the maximum, 14 years. There is no minimum sentence, and theoretically a judge could sentence Sumi to time already served; the defendant has been held in lieu of $5 million bail since she was charged. Sentencing is set for January 8, 2013 in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse.
Defendant Sumi wept at the defense table today, as the verdicts were read. Her family sat quietly, behind her, in the courtroom. The families of the persons who were killed in the wreck were also in court, and they also cried. “I can’t bring their loved ones back, but I can at least bring them justice,” said prosecutor Jodi Breton, who commented later.