Dave Rice 12:35 p.m., May 23
Woman sentenced to ten years for fatal DUI crash
Debbie Pacheco Sumi read a statement that she is "sorry"
A woman convicted of killing three persons by crashing into a car parked on the side of a freeway two years ago, was sentenced yesterday to ten years in prison.
There were so many people who wanted to hear the sentencing that the case was moved to a larger room, upstairs in San Diego’s North County courthouse, yesterday afternoon.
More than 40 persons crowded into Judge Runston Maino’s courtroom to hear statements from the family of the victims and supporters of the convicted woman, and Debbie Sumi herself, February 1, 2013.
A jury had declared Debbie Pacheco Sumi guilty of three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, after a two-week trial in October 2012.
Debbie Pacheco Sumi, then 33, and her boyfriend Larry Alvarez, 34, were in a Jeep that ran into a black Nissan that was parked on the side of Highway 78. The boyfriend, who is the father of two of Sumi’s four children, did not survive the crash that night, in August 2010.
Debbie Sumi was thrown clear of the wreck, and her back was reportedly broken in two places, but she survived to stand trial. Sumi denied being the driver of the Jeep that night, instead placing the blame on her deceased boyfriend Larry Alvarez.
The other two people who were killed, Susana Orozco and Erica Oliva, both 23, were standing outside the Nissan when it was struck. A survivor testified that they pulled over onto the side of the highway because one of the women felt sick.
Debbie Sumi’s blood alcohol level was tested at hospital, and some estimates put her BAL as high as .348 that night, which experts testified could be considered even a lethal level of alcohol. Debbie Sumi is a tiny woman, reportedly 4 feet 9 inches tall and weighing 104 pounds. The prosecutor said Sumi had been without a valid driver’s license for years.
Family of the women who were killed spoke to the judge, they described Debbie Sumi as “irresponsible” and “careless” and “reckless;” they asked the judge for the maximum sentence.
Two persons spoke on behalf of Debbie Sumi, asking for mercy and leniency “for the sake of her children.”
Debbie Sumi spoke for 3 minutes, she read from a prepared statement while weeping and sniffling. She said, in part: “I’m sorry for your pain, I’m sorry that night ever happened…. There’s not one day that has passed in which I haven’t asked why I had to be the one to survive, and I guess for that I’m sorry too…. I would like to say that I loved Larry, he was my best friend and my other half… But in the end, we all lost that important someone, that was a part of our lives….”
Debbie Pacheco Sumi did not admit being the driver of the Jeep, and her defense attorney said she is filing an appeal for her client.