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Driver charged with DUI, murder in death of Irvine teen Ashton Sweet

Austin Farley, 26, was charged with one felony count each of murder and driving under the influence in the crash that killed 14-year-old Ashton Sweet.

June 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
An Orange County man has been charged with DUI and murder for a collision that resulted in the death of Irvine teenager Ashton Sweet.

Police say 26-year-old Austin Farley's blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit when he crashed into the car Ashton Sweet was riding in Sunday morning.

Farley appeared in court to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon. He pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and DUI charges. A pre-trial hearing was scheduled for June 24 at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach. If convicted, Farley faces a maximum sentence of 20 years to life in state prison.

According to Orange County court records, Farley has a long criminal record.

  • In 2009 Farley pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, battery on a peace officer, driving on a suspended license, and vandalism over $400.

  • In 2008 he pleaded guilty to battery and damaging a monitoring device.

  • In 2005 he pleaded guilty for refusing to take a chemical test for drugs or alcohol.

Farley now sits in jail and is held on $1 million bail. Irvine police say his vehicle struck a Mercedes-Benz carrying five passengers, including Sweet.

Sweet sustained an irreversible brain injury from the crash. She was being kept on life support so her organs could be donated. She was declared deceased Tuesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, nearly all of Sweet's classmates at Northwood High School wore white to celebrate her life. The memorial at the crash site is also growing.

"I think it's really hard for everyone," said junior Ashley Yonamine. "I hope that her family is doing all right and her friends remember all the joy that she brought and not all the sadness that comes with her death."

"Really nice kid," said Northwood High Principal Leslie Roach. "Very sweet, well liked. I think she'll certainly be missed."

Another passenger in the crash, 15-year-old Krista Merassa, remains in critical condition. Irvine police say her condition is improving and her injuries are not life-threatening.

Funeral arrangements for Sweet were not announced.

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