Updated at 4:50 p.m. March 14, 2012
Amid sobs of the relatives of his two victims, Justin Stephen Foulds sat quietly and listened as family members addressed an El Cajon court Wednesday at his sentencing hearing.
The Lemon Grove man—who pleaded guilty to a drunken driving crash that took the lives of a 73-year-old woman and her grandson—received the maximum sentence of 12 years in state prison.
Foulds, 39, entered the guilty plea Feb. 1 in connection with the Dec. 9 crash on state Route 125 in La Mesa following plea negotiations.
Prosecutor Gordon Davis said the District Attorney’s Office would accept nothing less than the maximum sentence.
Relatives of Torres and 16-year-old David Gonzalez, a sophomore at Grossmont High School, were present in court.
At one point, Foulds looked toward the floor. At another, he swiped his fingers across his cheek as he listened to Anna Vazquez, the oldest daughter of Torres and one of three family members to address the court, speak about the close relationship she shared with her mother.
She called the family’s loss “a pain we still can not overcome.”
Gonzalez’s mother, Andrea Vazquez, also addressed Judge Charles Ervin, breaking down in tears as she talked about the grief she and David’s 14-year-old brother struggle with.
Vazquez accepted the sentence, saying it was “something we can’t change.”
Jessica Chavez, a cousin of David’s, wept as she told the court her whole family’s life has been changed. She urged those who drink and drive to think about the consequences.
“These actions changed our lives dramatically,” she said.
A student at San Diego State University, Chavez says she has been unable to focus on studies since the crash, and suffers breakdowns when she sees an ambulance go by, or if she’s riding in a car and the driver must stop quickly.
Davis said the sentence would not have been different had the case gone to trial.
“You’ve got two deaths. I don’t know a judge in this county who would say, ‘OK you’re done,’” Davis said. “We just completed the inevitable early.”
The deputy district attorney said Foulds, who has no record, did the right thing by entering a guilty plea, calling the decision unusual.
“Mr. Foulds stood up and took responsibility—and most don’t,” he said. “So he should be recognized for that.”
Chavez said she thought the guilty plea “was big of him.”
“I was shocked and happy that he pleaded guilty,” she said.
With time off for good behavior, Foulds could serve six years.
A Lemon Grove man who drove drunk and slammed into the rear of a sport utility vehicle on state Route 125 in La Mesa, killing a woman and her grandson, is scheduled to be sentenced today in an El Cajon courtroom.
Justin Stephen Foulds, 39, pleaded guilty last month to two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and agreed to a 12-year prison term.
Foulds—who has no prior record—admitted his guilt in connection with the Dec. 9 deaths of 73-year-old Celia Torres and 16-year-old David Gonzalez.
Torres had driven from her home in Tijuana to pick up her grandson because he had an appointment with a Tijuana orthodontist the next day and she didn't want him to miss it, according to family members.
Prosecutor Gordon Davis told a judge at Foulds' arraignment that the defendant left work about 3 p.m. and drank with co-workers in a parking lot, then proceeded to a local bar, where he shared one or two pitchers of beer and drank a couple shots of whiskey.
Foulds left the bar about 5:30 p.m. and, shortly thereafter, slammed his Chevrolet Silverado into the victim's Nissan Pathfinder near the Interstate 8 interchange while traveling about 65 mph, Davis said.
The impact spun the victim's SUV around, knocking it into three other vehicles. Torres and her grandson burned to death when their vehicle burst into flames, Davis said. Foulds walked away from the accident.
Foulds' blood-alcohol level measured .26 percent after the collision, more than three times the legal limit, Davis said.
—City News Service