Woman who killed best friend in DUI crash gets one year in jail

SAN DIEGO - A young woman who was drunk when her vehicle collided with a truck on a freeway in City Heights, killing her best friend, was sentenced Monday to one year in county jail and five years probation.

Mabel Bahena

Yolanda Lozano, 20, pleaded guilty in July to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in the Feb. 17 death of her passenger, 19-year-old Mabel Bahena. She could have faced up to seven years in prison.

According to Deputy District Attorney Laura Evans, Lozano drank alcohol at a hookah lounge and had a blood-alcohol content of .22 percent hours after the 6 p.m. accident, which occurred on state Route 15 just north of Interstate 805.

"She drank, she drove and she killed somebody," said Evans, who argued for a prison term.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walsh, who handed down the sentence, called the case "exceptional" because Bahena's family supported the defendant. He said he regularly is asked by victims' families to send defendants to prison and is asked to give their feelings "great weight."

"To ignore that now cuts against what my job is -- justice," the judge said.

The victim's father told the judge that he believes the crash was an accident.

"Sir, we make mistakes and she's paying a lot," Gustavo Bahena said. "I think what she's already lost -- a friend -- is more than enough."

After Lozano entered her plea, the judge had prison officials evaluate her to help determine whether she was suitable for prison or should be placed on probation.

Walsh noted that none of the multiple counselors and psychologists who spoke with the defendant, who had no criminal history, felt she was a good candidate for prison, a rare finding in his experience.

Because of accumulated credits, Lozano is expected to serve only a couple more months behind bars, according to the lawyers in the case.