From the San Juan Capistrano Patch:
A 30-year-old San Juan Capistrano woman was sentenced to six years in state prison today for running her car off the road in Dana Point and killing a bicyclist In March, Michelle Nicole Stearns pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for the October 2007 incident.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Craig Robison could have granted Stearns probation or sentenced her up to 10 years. Robison said he struck a middle ground because she had no criminal history and family and friends wrote letters to the judge on her behalf.
"I do believe her expressions of remorse are genuine,'' Robison said. Stearns formed a nonprofit organization called Safe Cruz that
provides rides home for impaired drivers, Deputy District Attorney Nancy Hayashida said.
"Not a second goes by that I'm not in agony over this,'' Stearns told the judge. "I would do anything to make this not real ... That's the torture. I can't change this.''
Stearns was driving her BMW north on Del Obispo Street near Quail Run at 2 a.m. when she lost control of the car, jumped the curb, hit a traffic sign and crashed into Jose Umberto Barranco-Patino, 32, as he pedaled home from his job as a busboy, prosecutors said.
She also hit a utility box, triggering a power outage in the area for about 600 customers. Stearns' blood-alcohol level was almost three times the legal limit, according to prosecutors. Barranco-Patino was pronounced dead at the scene.
"I am so sorry,'' she tearfully said in court.
Barranco-Patino's brother, Cesar Barranco, and his wife, Martha Pliego, said after the hearing they were satisfied with the sentence. With help from a translator, they told reporters the victim was a "great father'' who was happy and concerned with his family's welfare.
In the blink of your eye, your whole life changes when you get behind the wheel of a car drunk. You take the drink, the drink takes the drink, the drink takes you and innocent others.