An 18-year-old Tustin resident suspected of driving under the influence of methamphetamine pleaded not guilty today on a charge of vehicular manslaughter stemming from a collision that killed a bicyclist.
Sommer Nicole Gonzales was driving her Toyota Corolla sedan south on Santiago Canyon Road in Orange just before 7 a.m. on Feb. 2 when she allegedly veered into the bike lane, colliding with 21-year-old bicyclist Joseph Robinson, Deputy District Attorney Anna McIntire said.
Orange County Fire Authority Battalion Chief Marc Stone was driving north on Santiago Canyon Road near Irvine Lake slightly after the collision when he noticed a car going in the other direction with a heavily damaged windshield. His initial thought was the car collided with a deer, but when he saw a shoe in the roadway he swung his vehicle around to investigate and found the victim in the bushes.
Stone phoned in a description of the vehicle -- a 2001 Toyota -- and authorities issued a bulletin, leading to an arrest in Rancho Santa Margarita, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Todd Kovaletz.
Gonzales was arrested about 8:45 a.m. in a parking lot "trying to offload personal equipment from her vehicle into a friend's car," Kovaletz said.
A blood test showed Gonzales had methamphetamine in her system, according to McIntire.
Gonzales was charged Thursday with one count each of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated, driving under the influence of drugs causing bodily injury, hit and run with death, possession of a controlled substance, all felonies.
Gonzales was also charged with misdemeanor counts of use and being under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia with sentencing enhancement allegations for inflicting great bodily injury and fleeing the scene of a crime.
Gonzales could face up to 15 years and eight months in prison if she is convicted at trial.
--City News Service