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$3M bail set for DUI suspect in fatal crash

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Katie McGrosso Ellison

EL CAJON, Calif. — A 21-year-old woman accused of driving drunk and fatally striking a 55-year-old Texas resident and seriously injuring the victim’s husband pleaded not guilty Friday to second-degree murder and other charges.

Katie McGrosso Ellison is accused of killing Lorraine Kennedy of Brenham, Texas, and injuring the woman’s spouse, David Sandel, on Sept. 25. The victims were reportedly in Lakeside to attend a grandchild’s birthday party.

Ellison was ordered held on $3 million bail.

Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright told Judge Daniel Goldstein that Ellison — an auto mechanic — went to a restaurant after work and had a vodka drink and a shot of Fireball, followed by four shots of sake at a sushi bar.

Bright said Ellison then drove to Lakeside. She was traveling “at a significant speed” in the 12200 block of Woodside Avenue with her lights off just after 8 p.m. and struck Kennedy and Sandel as they crossed the street, following Kennedy’s son and his girlfriend.

Kennedy was impaled on Ellison’s windshield and Sandel was thrown more than 100 feet, the prosecutor said.

Ellison also suffered major injuries when her Toyota Yaris struck the victims.

At the hospital, Ellison’s blood-alcohol level was measured at .12 percent, Bright said. The prosecutor said the defendant admitted that she had a prior DUI conviction when she was 17 and had attended six months of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

In addition to murder, Ellison is charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while impaired, driving under the influence and driving with a .08 blood-alcohol level causing injury. She faces 21 years to life in prison if convicted.

A readiness conference was set for Nov. 2 and a preliminary hearing for Nov. 19.

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