Woman sentenced for head-on crash that killed elderly couple

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VISTA, Calif. — A woman who killed an elderly couple in a 2017 head-on crash in Valley Center on the day of their 64th wedding anniversary was sentenced Monday to one year in jail.

Jessi Daniels, 28, was convicted in December of misdemeanor manslaughter in the June 27, 2017, deaths of 83-year-old Bob Durant and 81-year- old Jo Durant.

In addition to the jail sentence, Daniels was ordered to complete 90 hours of public works and 250 hours of volunteer work at either an elder care facility on an education program that covers the dangers of distracted driving.

Prosecutors alleged that Daniels had therapeutic levels of the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam — commonly known by the brand name Xanax — and the anti-depression medication venlafaxine — commonly known as Effexor — in her system at the time of the crash, but jurors acquitted her of two felony counts of gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence.

Daniels — in her Ford Explorer Sport Trac — crossed over the double yellow line on Lilac Road near Hideaway Lake Road about 1 p.m., crashing head- on into the Durants’ Mercedes-Benz E300, killing them on impact, authorities said.

Defense attorney James Dicks told the jury that witnesses observed Daniels acting normally in the hours leading up to the crash. A paramedic at the crash scene said Daniels’ pupils were normal and that she was alert following the collision, Dicks said.

Family members said the victims had moved to Oceanside from Valley Center and were checking on the home they had sold when they were killed.

A litany of family members were on hand for Monday morning’s sentencing in Vista, and letters penned by family members who could not attend were read to the court.

Greg Lane, a cousin of the couple, created a video detailing what the Durants meant to him, which was shown at the hearing.

“It is very important for you to understand that Bob and Jo were incredibly wonderful people whose untimely absence has left a huge hole in everyone’s world,” Lane said in the video.

“They were one of the anchors which held this family together …,” Lane said. “The value they brought to the entire family was unmeasurable … They had a lot left to give, they had so much more planned, so much more to contribute. That was all taken from them and painfully, from all of us.”

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