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Paralyzed driver faces jail time for crash

June 25, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Ventura man who is now a quadriplegic is facing time behind bars. He was paralyzed when his speeding car crashed into another vehicle, killing an elderly woman. There are no winners in this story, that's what the mother of Daniel Espinoza says and why she says her paralyzed son should be kept out of prison.

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But prosecutors and the family of the woman who was killed in the accident believe Espinoza should be punished for what he did.

"I can move my right arm a little, but not my left arm or my legs," said Daniel Espinoza.

Next month Daniel Espinoza, a 25-year-old quadriplegic, could be sentenced to prison. The Ventura man is being held responsible for the death of 69-year-old Dorothy Anne Walter.

Authorities say Espinoza, seen here before the accident, was speeding, driving as fast as 90 miles per hour on a Bakersfield highway in March 2006, when he lost control of his car and crashed into Walter's car. The crash left Espinoza paralyzed and killed Walter, mother to five children, grandmother to 10.

"Two years now, I can close my eyes, I can tell you exactly what happened in that hospital, the whole ride there, what I was saying, what we were doing; it is so clear in my memory, it was a terrible night," said Barrett Renkins, Anne Walter's grandson.

Walter's grandchildren say they still haven't come to terms with the loss.

"To just think about the idea that there's no way I can see her again; it's devastating, even now," said Bryce Renkins.

The family wants Daniel Espinoza to serve time, regardless of his condition.

Espinoza's mother, Lauri Kolkman, says everyone involved has suffered enough, including her son, who remembers nothing of the accident.

"It is by far the most incredibly hardest thing that you can even imagine," said Kolkman.

Espinoza was on life support for months after the accident. When he recovered, he pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter. His mother says the district attorney promised no jail time with the plea. The D.A. denies any such deal was made.

"Two years later now, we're trying to take back the no-contest plea and figure out how to go to trial with basically no evidence," said Kolkman.

Espinoza is expected back in court July 17. At that time, the judge can either put him on probation, allowing him to live at home, or send him to prison for up to six years.

His mother says that would be the equivalent of a death sentence.

 

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