Just after midnight on August 13th, 2010, another horrible DUI tragedy took the lives of three, and forever changed the life of a San Marcos mom. Over two years ago, Debbie Sumi, a mother of four, made the unfortunate life altering decision to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. Earlier that evening, she was celebrating the joy of her fiance’s proposal and by morning, because of her reckless decision, her life took an unthinkable turn for the worse.
On Monday, 36 year old Sumi was convicted of three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. According to prosecutors, Sumi was drunk driving when her car crashed on westbound State Route 78 near Sycamore Avenue.
According to CHP, the devastating chain of events that lead to this terrible tragedy began when the driver of a westbound 2008 Nissan Altima pulled over to the side of highway 78 because one of her passengers was feeling ill. After parking on the shoulder, three of the passengers got out of the car. Sadly, it wasn’t long before Debbie Sumi’s 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee veered off the highway and slammed into the Altima and two young women standing right next to it.
The Jeep Cherokee then tumbled across all lanes, skidding and flipping until it came to rest on its roof against the center divider. Sumi was thrown from her Jeep and was fortunate to survive the horrible crash. Tragically, her fiance and the two young women were killed. 34-year old Larry Alvarez, died at the scene after being partially ejected and crushed by the overturned Cherokee. Susana Orozco of Escondido and Erica Oliva of Fallbrook, both only 23-years-old, were also pronounced dead at the scene.
According to Prosecutor Jodi Breton, Sumi’s blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit, measuring at .27 and .28 percent. Prosecutor Breton stated that the high BAL is one of the reasons she will request that Sumi be sentenced to the maximum of 14 years.
As the verdicts were read, it was reported that defendant Sumi wept. Her sentencing is scheduled for January 8, 2013 in San Diego North County Superior Courthouse. During the trial, Sumi’s public defense attorney maintained that it was the defendant’s fiance who was driving the Jeep. However, the jury rejected that claim and found her guilty.
I imagine that Debbie Sumi has many heartfelt regrets, especially making the careless decision to drive completely intoxicated that night. One mindless decision brought about an unfathomable chain of events. Remember, the best choice is to not drink alcohol and drive!
“San Marcos Mother Convicted in Fatal North County Crash” 10 News San Diego, October 23, 2012
“Jury Declares Woman guilty of Three DUI Manslaughters” San Diego Reader, October 22, 2012