A San Luis Obispo jury found a 25-year-old woman guilty of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and two counts of DUI resulting in injury over a 2016 crash after a concert at the Pozo Saloon that killed a Santa Margarita woman.
However, the jury opted not to convict Jessica Lea Allred of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. By determining Allred did not act with gross negligence and by choosing to convict her of a lesser charge, the jury relieved the San Luis Obispo woman of some time she would have otherwise spent in prison.
On April 30, 2016, Allred 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. Fox was pronounced dead at the scene. While at the hospital after the crash, Allred was found to have a blood alcohol level of .17.
Allred had been facing up to 10 years in prison if she were to be convicted of all counts and enhancements. It is now unclear how long of a prison sentence she could face.
During an eight-day trial, the prosecution called on a sheriff’s forensic lab specialist who testified that Allred would have likely had 4.5 to 6.1 drinks to reach a .17 blood alcohol level. The prosecution also argued Allred was weaving, listening to loud music and dancing in her car prior to the crash.
The defense disputed Allred’s blood alcohol level reading, arguing the blood sample was mishandled by a registered nurse at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, who was taking blood in a DUI case for the first time. The defense also argued the crash occurred at a very dangerous stretch of Highway 58 that includes a blind turn.
Also during the trial, Allred took the stand and gave her account of the hours leading up to the fatal crash. Allred said she drank three beers, as well as water, over a four-hour period prior to the accident.
She also said she played beer pong, but did not drink any beer as part of the game. Allred testified that she did not drive on the way to Pozo, and on the way back, it was her first time ever driving that route.
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 testified. The incident scared her and she put her phone away.
The next thing she remembered was waking up on her back on the pavement and being lifted onto a flat board by emergency personnel, Allred testified.
Following the announcement of the verdict, SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow issued a statement stating the case should deter those who would get behind the wheel while intoxicated.
“This is a tragic, yet very real, example of what can occur when an individual drives under the influence of alcohol,” Dow said. “The district attorney’s office stands shoulder to shoulder with the California Highway Patrol and other law enforcement in aggressively prosecuting these criminal offenses. We are hopeful that this conviction will provide some level of justice for the family and friends of Ms. Fox, and will serve as a deterrent for those who would otherwise engage in similar conduct.”
Allred was booked in San Luis Obispo County Jail Thursday on a court order following the reading of the verdict. Her sentencing is scheduled for July 30 in the courtroom of Judge Craig van Rooyen.