Mother sentenced to 8 years for fatal DUI crash

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Arlene HernandezCHULA VISTA, Calif. — A Chula Vista woman who crashed a minivan into Otay Reservoir while drunk, killing her 5-year-old daughter and another child, was sentenced today to eight years in prison.

Arlene Anna Hernandez, 23, pleaded guilty in March to charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI. She could have received up to 12 years in prison.

“I’m so sorry for all the pain that I’ve caused you,” Hernandez said to the family of 5-year-old Guiliana Figueroa. “I’m so sorry that I took Guiliana away from you. I take full responsibility for the death of my daughter, Lesette (Silva), and the death of Guiliana.”

Defense attorney Jonathan Jordan argued that the eight-year term was appropriate given the fact that Hernandez had no prior record.

Deputy District Attorney Mary Loeb argued that the defendant deserved the aggravated term of 12 years, saying a day of drinking and driving culminated at 6 p.m. with her car crashing into the water.

All parties agreed that no amount of time in custody for Hernandez could bring the victims back.

“This is a particularly tragic case,” said South Bay Judge Theodore Weathers, noting the victims couldn’t get their seat belts off once the car became submerged in the water.

Authorities said Hernandez lost control of her 2005 Kia Sedona on eastbound Otay Lakes Road last Aug. 5. The vehicle tumbled down an embankment near Wueste Road, overturned, landed on its roof in the water and sank, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Hernandez and her front sear passenger, Eric Figueroa, got out, but Figueroa’s daughter, Guiliana, and the defendant’s daughter, Lesette, were not pulled out of the vehicle until several area residents and Border Patrol agents arrived. The children were airlifted to Rady Children’s Hospital, where they were declared dead.

Guiliana Figueroa’s mother, Natasha, told Hernandez “I would have died myself trying to save my child.”

The mother called the defendant “careless and selfish,” a person “who couldn’t go a day without a drink.”

CHP Officer Brad Clinkscales testified at a preliminary hearing in November that Figueroa told him he met Hernandez a few months earlier and their daughters played together.

On the day of the crash, Hernandez and Figueroa arranged a “play date” with their girls and met at a Ralphs grocery store, Clinkscales said.

Figueroa bought a six-pack of beer, and Hernandez drove them to a park, where they had about three beers each, the officer said Figueroa told him.

Hernandez saw some skydivers and said she wanted to give her daughter an up-close look, so they drove toward the area, Clinkscales said Figueroa told him.

Figueroa said he was blindfolded during the drive because Hernandez had a “surprise.” He said he didn’t know anything was wrong until he heard yelling and minivan careened out of control.

Hernandez’s blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.13 percent after the crash, the officer said.


  • Angela

    I would be extremely upset with my husband after learning he was there drinking too. This is terribly sad.

  • ron

    8 yrs for killing two children? BS! It's not near enough time. Who cares if it her first offense…it's a huge one. Anyone who drives while drunk knows better and should face life in prison for murder. And she's probably illegal too.

    • Brock

      That's racist man. Regardless of her irresponsible behavior you should be ashamed of such broad generalization.

  • Wes baker

    We live in a liberal society that promotes drinking. Allowing a person to kill well intoxicated is a shame on us as citizens and our country. We need to change these laws and get rid of these people who kill and get little to no jail time. It could have been my child and this women would no give a dam! But this is why our founding fathers gave us a second amendment.

  • Stephanie

    8 years?! Pathetic. She deserves so much more than that. Two children, who had a whole life to look forward to, are gone because of her bad decision. Its disgusting!

  • irateiconoclast

    No one should go to the slammer for an accident, and since there was no INTENT to hurt (much less kill) the victims, eight years is quite excessive. But this type of Draconian punishment is consistent with the neo-Probhib types, including the buttuggly officious matrons of "MADD"–all of whom should be drawn and quartered for the harm THEY'VE caused to society!

    • Warrior

      You are delusional. When you make a choice to put others in danger by drinking and driving it ceases to be an accident. An accident is a blown tire, a deer running into the road, not seeing something in your blind spot. Drunk driving is NOT an accident, it's a choice and one deserving of punishment, especially when it causes death or harm.

      • irateiconoclast

        There is no evidence suggesting that the driver INTENDED to cause the deaths. Mind you, I'm not advocating that impaired people drive–whether the cause of the impairment is booze, bad coordination, age, retardation, whatever–BUT, the Draconian punishments are not only unjust, but do nothing to deter others from bad judgment.

        "Delusional?" That would be fascists like you!

        • jose

          Im with Warrior on this one, this was not an accident, she had a drinking problem she consciously made the DECISION to drive impaired knowing very well what COULD happen and it DID happen…the law should be stricter, if the penalty for manslaughter with DUI were minimum 20 years without parole the streets would be alot safer…I will continue to report drunk drivers if I notice them on the road!

          • irateiconoclast

            There's no evidence that harsher penalties would make things safer. Indeed, the most egregious of offenders (e.g., those who drive the wrong way on the freeway with astronomical b.a.l. levels) are insensate. Research has found, instead, that lower b.a.l. limits and more aggressive police action has resulted ONLY in an increase in the arrests and incarceration of the innocent or peripherally culpable.

    • Brock

      Given that she had a five year old child at 23, her whole life has just been a string of bad decisions, so I'm not surprised

  • Heather

    How was the passenger not charged?! He willingly allowed his daughter to get into a car where the driver had been drinking. That was not his decision to make if he couldn't do the responsible thing as a parent, but he did it, forced his daughter into an unsafe situation where she died. How is he not charged also?

  • stinkslinger

    I'd have died that day if that were my daughter and I couldn't get the seatbelt undone. I wouldn't be able to bring myself to swim to the surface without her. Selfish cowards. Also I sincerely doubt this was a 'play date' rather an affair designed to look like one seems more fitting.

  • Mel

    It really bothers me that Hernandez blindfolded Figueroa… doesn't anyone else think that's a little strange?

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