Repeat DUI driver who killed tow truck operator gets 25-to-life in prison

SAN DIEGO -- A repeat DUI offender who was drunk when he swerved onto a freeway shoulder, striking and killing a tow-truck operator tending to a disabled trash truck, was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, plus 10 years for two prior felonies Friday.

Michael Gilbert Gray, 50, pleaded guilty in August to second-degree murder and admitted two serious felony prior convictions.

Charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and leaving the scene of the Feb. 23, 2017, collision were dismissed as part of the plea agreement. Gray has three prior DUIs dating back to 1999.

Witnesses testified during a preliminary hearing last year that they saw Gray's Ford Expedition swerve onto the shoulder of the freeway and narrowly miss a large disabled commercial trash truck before striking Fred Griffith, who was standing outside his heavy-duty tow truck in front of the trash truck. The 55-year-old victim from Santee was a single father to three teenage boys.

"I am truly sorry," Gray said to the family, who attended the sentencing. "If you guys have any hate in your heart towards me, don't let it dictate your life. Just be strong and do good things in life and just know that he's watching."

But one of Griffith's sons told FOX 5 outside the courtroom that Gray's words rang hollow: "I think that he is just simply trying to save face, perhaps get some sympathy for when he's in prison. I don't believe that any words he spoke today were genuine."

Gray -- who had a half-empty bottle of vodka in his car -- was still showing signs of intoxication three hours after the crash, said Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright.

Authorities said Gray's blood-alcohol content was .27 percent -- more than three times the legal limit -- at the time of the accident. His last DUI was in 2013, Bright said.

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