Carmichael Woman Gets Maximum Sentence in Fatal DUI

5:49 PM, Oct 10, 2008   |    comments
Bethann Colyer
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SACRAMENTO, CA - Tears flowed freely in a packed Sacramento courtroom Friday as a Carmichael woman received the maximum sentence in a fatal DUI crash last December.


Bethann Colyer, who tearfully apologized to victim families, was sentenced to 12 years, eight months in prison for driving drunk and slamming her SUV into another SUV filled with teenagers December 19, 2007. One teenager was killed and all eight others suffered various injuries, some of them severe.


"I made a horrible decision that caused so much devastation. I never meant to take your son, your friend, your neighbor," Colyer said, sobbing through her words as she turned to the packed audience filled with victims and their family members. Colyer, 34, has two daughters of her own.


Colyer left a Carmichael bar she co-owned, Dub's Daily Dose, that Wednesday night and blew through the red light at Eastern and Whitney Avenue, according to investigators. Her Chevy Tahoe, going an estimated 50 to 55 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone, broadsided the Honda CRV filled with teenagers. Prosecutors say Colyer's blood alcohol level measured .15 well after the collision, nearly twice the legal limit.


Scott Allen Crouch, Jr., an 18-year-old graduate of El Camino High's engineering academy, was killed. Eight others were injured, with the most serious injuries to Jessica Mendoza in the front passenger seat. Initially in a coma from head injuries, Mendoza, 18, spent two months in the hospital. She and the Honda's driver, 18-year-old Garron Engstrom, were the only ones in the Honda wearing seatbelts, according to the California Highway Patrol.


Mendoza testified how her life has drastically changed, with restricted movement from a fused spinal cord and trouble concentrating due to brain damage. At the end of her emotional speech, she told Colyer, "My life is a gift from God. My life is a gift to God. Now you do the same."


The teens were out celebrating Engstrom's birthday and CHP reports show he was completely clean and sober. "I will forever think of my birthday as the day Scott died," said Engstrom.


Scott Crouch, Sr., testified how he devoted all his spare time to being with his son. "We were joined at the hip," he said. He saw news coverage of the crash that night, thought the vehicle was similar to the one in which his son left, but put the thought out of his mind until chaplains came to his door early the next morning.


"Bethann, I know you didn't mean to take my son. You made bad decisions," he said.


Colyer had earlier pleaded no contest to the charges of gross vehicular manslaughter and drunk driving causing great bodily injury. She did so without a plea bargain offered.


Sacramento Superior Court Judge Laurie Earl told Colyer, " I believe you are truly remorseful, sparing the families the pain of a trial." The judge, however, cited the high number of victims, and Colyer's high blood alcohol level and admissions of alcohol abuse in imposing the maximum sentence allowed by law.


"So much anguish in one incredibly selfish act," said the judge. Colyer was then remanded to custody immediately, after being free on bail since three days after her arrest.


"No one is going to leave here happy today," remarked the judge.


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