Guilty plea in crash that killed parents, injured 3 children
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A drunken driver who killed a mother and father and seriously injured their three young children as they looked at Christmas lights in Southern California pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder.
Grace Elizabeth Coleman, 23, of Newport Beach also entered pleas to two counts involving driving under the influence and a charge of hit-and-run causing injury.
She could get 21 years to life in prison when she is sentenced in July, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.
On Dec. 8, 2020, Coleman’s Range Rover ran a red light at 75 mph (about 120 kph) and struck the car of a family that was driving around to look at Newport Beach Christmas lights, prosecutors said.
Coleman’s blood alcohol level at the time was .22%, or nearly three times the legal limit, prosecutors said.
Gabriela Andrade, 28, and her husband, Henry Saldana-Mejia, 27, were killed and their three daughters, ages 1, 4, and 5, received broken legs and head injuries, authorities said.
Coleman drove off after the crash, leaving the children, strapped into car seats, with the bodies of their parents, prosecutors said.
Coleman had been arrested 3 1/2 months before the crash in Laguna Beach for driving under the influence, acknowledging that she had a blood alcohol level of .18% at the time, authorities said.
“Drinking and driving has real life consequences,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “And those little girls are going to have to live with those consequences the rest of their lives because someone they never met decided to get behind the wheel of a car while drunk and kill their parents.”
Coleman and her parents — who own the Range Rover — also are being sued for wrongful death by attorneys for the three children.