Testimony heard in death of 6-year-old girl struck by car in Santa Ana

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Testimony was heard in the trial for Jessicah Cowan, who is accused by prosecutors of killing a 6-year-old girl while driving drunk in Santa Ana.

Prosecutors told jurors that Jessicah Cowan made choices the morning of June 23, 2012, that killed 6-year-old Osmara Meza and injured her 7-year-old sister Grisea Meza and her mother Eloisa Meza.

The family, hand-in-hand, was crossing a street in a marked cross-walk near 17th and Spurgeon streets in Santa Ana on their way to Norm's restaurant for breakfast.

"Eloisa decided to take her girls for pancakes," Prosecutor Mark Birney told jurors in a Santa Ana courtroom. "Ms. Cowan decided to drink and drive."

Prosecutors said the 37-year-old woman had just flown in from Oakland to Burbank. A Southwest Airlines receipt showed she purchased two drinks during the flight.

After leaving Bob Hope Airport in her silver Lexus, receipts showed Cowan stopped at two liquor stores on her way to Temecula. Prosecutors said she bought two small bottles of vodka at one location.

Authorities said Cowan's blood alcohol level was at least .24, which is three times the legal limit. Officials said she was also speeding.

"17th street is a 40 mph zone. She's estimated to be 70 mph, almost twice the speed limit," said Birney.

A witness, David McKinney, testified he was stopped at a red light at an intersection right before the crash location. McKinney said a silver Lexus stopped next to him, then suddenly drove through the red light, hit the center median before continuing down the street.

Prosecutors said Cowan also ran the next red light, right before slamming into the Meza family. Osmara Meza was pronounced dead at the scene.

"Eloisa was in a coma, severely injured, on a breathing machine," said Birney.

Grisea Meza also suffered a head injury. Both survived.

Prosecutors said Cowan tried to flee the scene, but was stopped by a Good Samaritan.

Cowan's defense attorney denies she took off, but admitted she was driving under the influence of alcohol and became distracted by a cellphone call right before the crash.

"The last thing on her mind is she's going to kill someone on that day," her defense attorney, Dennis O'Connell, told the court.

"She's never been convicted of any prior offense," said O'Connell. "She's had no educational programs to teach people the dangers of drinking and driving."

Police said they found two mini-vodka bottles, a marijuana container with the words "Green Crack" on it, and a pipe in Cowan's car.

Cowan has pleaded not guilty.

"I'm going to ask you to convict my client of vehicular manslaughter. That's what she did. I will ask you find her not guilty of murder," said O'Connell.

"She took risks, she gambled and that little girl lost," Birney said.

Testimony was scheduled to continue Tuesday morning. Prosecutors said Cowan could face up to 15 years to life in prison if convicted.

Related Topics:
DUIdui crashdrunk drivingdrunk driving deathillegal drugsmarijuanacourt casetrialSanta AnaOrange County
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