Anaheim woman gets 6 years for killing two sisters while driving drunk [Updated]
A 23-year-old Anaheim woman was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison for driving on the wrong side of the 91 Freeway in Yorba Linda while drunk, killing two sisters.
Jessica Lynn Shekell pleaded guilty in October to two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated and two other felony counts related to the October 2009 crash.
Prosecutors asked for a sentence of 13 years in prison, while Shekell’s attorney, Rudolph Loewenstein, asked for probation.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert Fitzgerald sent Shekell to a 90-day diagnostic program operated by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, during which she denied being an alcoholic. When the program was over, officials recommended that she go to prison.
Shekell had been drinking with friends in two bars in Placentia before the 3 a.m. accident Oct. 26, 2009. She drove a Toyota pickup onto the freeway at Gypsum Canyon Road, going east in westbound lanes, prosecutors said.
California Highway Patrol officers who saw Shekell driving about 50 mph on the wrong side of the freeway were trying to stop traffic when she slammed into a Chevrolet pickup driven by Sally Miguel.
Miguel, 49, and her sister, Patricia Miguel, 30, were killed in the crash, and their nieces, Mary Miguel, 16, and Sara Miguel, 12, suffered permanent injuries, said prosecutor Susan Price. [Updated at 7:57 a.m., March 10: A previous version of this post did not include Price's first name or position.]
Sally died at the scene. Patricia was transported to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, where she was pronounced dead shortly after 4:20 a.m., the district attorney's office said. The family members were driving home to San Bernardino after an evening at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, Price said.
[For the record at 10:17 p.m.: A previous version of this post said Mary Miguel died at Western Medical Center. She was injured in the crash.]
Shekell had a blood alcohol level of 0.26% Price said; the legal limit is 0.08%. Loewenstein said another test of the blood indicated it was 0.20%. Mary Miguel suffered a permanent hip injury and needs a cane, Price said. Sara has a scar on her stomach.
The Miguel family was disappointed with Fitzgerald’s ruling, said attorney Dara M. Khajavi, who is representing the family in a civil lawsuit against Shekell. The civil case is scheduled to go to trial in June, Khajavi said.
Fitzgerald lessened Shekell’s time in prison because the victims were not wearing seat belts. Price said that was irrelevant because none of them were ejected from the pickup, so the force of the collision would have caused the deaths anyway.
Price also noted that Shekell had been cited for underage drinking in 2009.
-- Nate Jackson