A DUI re-offender who triggered a two-car crash near Lake Elsinore that killed an 18-year-old woman was sentenced today to 10 years in prison, though she’s likely to serve only half of that time.
Theresa Jean Estes, 53, pleaded guilty on Dec. 12 to DUI gross vehicular manslaughter for the death five days before of Lake Elsinore resident Ashleigh Brooks.
The defense made the plea directly to Riverside County Superior Court Judge Michael Rushton, without negotiating with the District Attorney’s Office.
Rushton imposed the maximum sentence on Estes. But because of provisions in state law aimed at rewarding prisoners for good behavior and reducing inmate overcrowding, the defendant could be freed in five years.
“She basically gets to go back to living her life after five years, provided she doesn’t mess up in prison, while the lives of the victim’s family are damaged forever,” Deputy District Attorney David Tahan told City News Service. “The month of December, the holidays, are ruined for this family.”
Tahan said Estes was heading to a restaurant with a date when the Dec. 7 crash occurred.
According to the California Highway Patrol, the defendant was intoxicated as she drove her 2004 Nissan Sentra south on Spring Street toward state Route 74 that afternoon. Estes attempted to make a left turn onto the highway and failed to yield to Brooks’ 1997 Honda Civic going eastbound, investigators said.
“The defendant struck the victim’s car and pushed it into oncoming traffic,” Tahan said.
Brooks’ sedan then collided head-on with a Ford pickup truck.
The young woman — who was one day away from turning 19 — died at the scene. The pickup driver walked away with minor injuries, as did Estes’ male passenger, who fled the location and has never been identified, according to Tahan.
Estes was slightly injured and was treated at a hospital before being booked into jail.
According to court records, the defendant was convicted in 2010 of misdemeanor driving under the influence, resulting in her being sentenced to three years probation.
The single mom’s blood-alcohol level at the time of the Dec. 7 wreck was just above the legal limit to operate a motor vehicle, which is .08, records showed.
“Ms. Estes had a history of drinking and driving,” Tahan said. “She should have known better.”
About 40 of Brooks’ family and friends attended the sentencing.