A 24-year-old woman accused of vehicular manslaughter in the 2016 death of a Santa Margarita woman following a concert at the Pozo Saloon took the stand in her trial and testified that, prior to the crash, she only drank three beers over a four-hour period. [Tribune]
On April 30, 2016, Jessica Lea Allred, 24, allegedly crossed a double yellow line while driving on Highway 58 east of Santa Margarita following the Pozo Stampede concert. Allred’s car crashed head-on into the vehicle of Denise Fox, 56, of Santa Margarita. Fox was pronounced dead at the scene.
Allred is charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI. Both charges carry enhancements for causing death. If convicted of all counts and enhancements, Allred faces up to 10 years in prison.
Jury deliberations in the case began on Tuesday. Prior to closing arguments and the beginning of deliberations, Allred took the stand to testify in her defense.
Wiping tears from her eyes, Allred testified that she went to the concert with her boyfriend, who drove on the way to Pozo. Allred had never driven the road herself, she said.
Allred planned to drive back alone, as her boyfriend was going to be camping with friends. The defendant joined her boyfriend at the campground, where she played beer pong but did not drink alcohol as part of the game, she said.
Over the approximately four hours she was at the campground and concert, Allred drank three beers, as well as water, and ate some food, she testified. Allred said she finished her last beer at 4:45 p.m. and drove away from the event at about 6 p.m. She did not feel any effects from the alcohol, Allred testified.
At one point while driving west on Highway 58, she changed a song that was playing on her cellphone and briefly swerved onto the shoulder of the road, Allred said. The incident scared her and she put her phone away.
The next thing she remembers is waking up on her back on the pavement and being lifted onto a flat board by emergency personnel, Allred testified. She said she remembers screaming and being in extreme pain.
The prosecution argued Allred was weaving, listening to loud music and dancing in her car prior to the crash. The defense argued that the crash occurred at a very dangerous stretch of road that includes a blind turn.
Witnesses provided conflicting testimony as to whether or not Allred was swerving on the road prior to the crash.
While at the hospital after the crash, Allred was found to have a blood alcohol level of .17.
The prosecution called on a sheriff’s forensic lab specialist who testified that Allred would likely have had 4.5 to 6.1 drinks to reach that blood alcohol level.
However, Allred’s attorney Patrick Fisher disputed the blood alcohol level reading, arguing the blood sample was mishandled by a registered nurse at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center.
It was the first time that Shelly Burns had taken blood for a DUI case. The defense accuses Burns of swabbing Allred’s arm with an alcohol-based solvent before drawing the blood, an action that allegedly tainted the results.
On Tuesday, the jury entered into deliberations which are expected to continue on Thursday. Jurors must find that Allred was driving with gross negligence in order to convicted her of the gross vehicular manslaughter charge. The jury could opt instead to convict Allred of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence.