Judge issues maximum sentance in fatal DUI case

[deleted account] ( 13 moms have responded )


By Kim Minugh
Published: Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010 - 12:03 pm

There are the things he's missed, like his older daughter's high school graduation, her first "boyfriend-slash-ex-boyfriend drama" and the start of her transition into adulthood.

Then there are the things to come: The birthdays, his daughters' weddings, the grandchildren not yet born.

Stanley Franklin Spaeth Jr. was robbed of these joys, his family told a Superior Court judge Wednesday, because of the actions of Rebecca Vela, who struck and killed Spaeth in April 2009 in what would be her fifth drunken-driving offense.

And for that, each loved one tearfully argued, Vela should pay.

"She's had the chance over and over and over and over again to change," Debbie Evans, one of Spaeth's sisters, sobbed angrily. "She did not give my brother … a chance. He had no chance whatsoever."

Judge Kevin J. McCormick answered the family's pleas, handing down a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in prison during a hearing rife with grief.

"Life is about choices," he said.

On April 18, 2009, Vela, now 34, rear-ended Spaeth's motorcycle as he headed home on East Stockton Boulevard in Elk Grove. He had just finished a shift working as a security guard - a second job he had picked up to help pay for his older daughter's upcoming tuition at a New York college with special programs for the deaf.

Spaeth, 54, died at the scene.

Vela – whose blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.21, more than twice the state's legal limit – fled the scene. Confronted by police officers nearby, she argued her nephew had been behind the wheel.

In September, Vela was found guilty of second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, driving under the influence with prior convictions and hit-and-run.

Several of Spaeth's relatives spoke at the sentencing of their devastation over his death; the struggle of his wife, Denise, with financial ruin; and their collective outrage toward a woman whose pattern of drunken driving had reached a fatal climax.

"The impact this has had on our family is catastrophic," said Spaeth's niece, Brooke Stewart. "No one will recover. This is not something that can be fixed."

They spoke of a loyal, jovial man with an affinity for nicknames, fried chicken and the outdoors. He worked hard to provide for his family, they said, and taught Sunday school.

Denise Spaeth recalled a time when her husband helped an ailing neighbor's family take apart a fence to allow a trailer to be parked alongside the house as caretakers moved in.

"I worried about property value. He saw a family in need," she said. "I was proud of the choices Stan made in life – toward others, especially."

She described how she has been forced to dismantle the life she and her husband of 20 years had built up, sometimes for lack of money, other times for lack of strength. Her burden is great, she said, and she is breaking under the pressure.

"When she crushed his heart," Denise Spaeth said of Vela, "mine was forever damaged, too."

Deputy District Attorney Tan Thinh described the case as "very tragic" and acknowledged the loss by Vela's family, including her 11-year-old son.

"Two families have been destroyed," he said. "Unfortunately, this whole situation could have been avoided if the defendant had not decided to drive home. It's that simple."

Vela cried through much of the hearing and offered a tearful apology to her victim's family.

"There are no words to express my remorse, my shame or my guilt," she sobbed. "I'm deeply sorry."

According to a probation report written before the sentencing, Vela's father had died – of cirrhosis of the liver – shortly before the collision.

That ended a nine-year streak of sobriety that followed Vela's DUI convictions in 1994, 1995, 1996 and 2000.

The day she killed Spaeth, Vela had been at a cousin's house where a video of her father's funeral was playing. She became depressed and drank, reportedly to the point of blacking out, the report said.

As she addressed Spaeth's family, Vela pledged to better herself and to "never drink again."

Spaeth's family members filled the courthouse hallway following the sentencing, embracing each other and the Elk Grove police detectives who investigated the case.

Denise Spaeth was somber.

"It's not a cause for celebration, but it's as much justice as we can have," she said of Vela's sentence, her eyes red and swollen. "I would rather the law for first offenders change to make this not happen again."

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/10/14/3103030...


What do you all think? Was the sentance too harsh? Not harsh enough? I saw this in the paper yesterday and my initial reaction was "GOOD!" and I am still standing by that, but I wanted to see if any of you insightful ladies have any other thoughts on it... :)


Sharon - posted on 10/15/2010




Not harsh enough. And I hope the victims family sues the fuck out of the cousins' for letting her stupid ass leave after she had blacked out!!! Who the fuck does that???

Its happened to me before, throw a party and some ass gets aggressive and nasty and takes their keys to drive home, I CALLED THE MOTHER FUCKING POLICE. Gave a car description, plate reading, name of the driver and why I was calling. I didn't quibble about "I think they are drunk." I stated "they are stumbling, mumbling drunk and aggressive." Seeing me on the phone, the guy screamed obsceneties at me, cried over his steering wheel, and parked his car in the middle of the street, got out, laid out on the sidewalk and kept crying. The cops came. I was PISSED. You do NOT treat me like that.

No, that family owes the victims big time and if they lose their house, to fucking bad.


View replies by

Sharon - posted on 10/16/2010




I agree Carol Morgan - it is murder. Full & out right MURDER. They CHOSE to drink, they CHOSE to drive, they KNOW that combination is lethal and yet they do it anyway - that is murder. HELL, its premeditated murder. I"d like to see the laws on that changed as well.

Carol - posted on 10/16/2010




Its is good. Before I moved I read so many things in the papaers where fathers would kill their children then themselves. One the mother even told the judge and he dismissed her her child is dead now because of that judge. I think that judge should go to jail and pay for not listening to this mother. Motorcyclist are at a disadvantage in this world. People in cars think they should move for them because theyare able to. My husband was ran off the road in California because of some woman, she didnt even stop. Some guys stopped because they saw his bike and went to take it when they saw him and woke him up. I dont think its harsh, and im glad that judge did it. Its the same as murder, maybe they should have gotten her on that to.

Becky - posted on 10/16/2010




I don't think the punishment was harsh enough. She took someone's life, because she was being an idiot. Not to mention that this wasn't her first offense! I think she should have gotten life.

[deleted account]

In CA, you don't even have to have a driver's license to register a car... which IMO is stupid... ff topic, I know, but it just shows how f&*#ed up our overrun DMV is here!

Rosie - posted on 10/15/2010




i think that she got what she deserved. i really think to avoid situations like this after the 2nd -maybe 3rd DUI they need to make it so that person cannot buy a car, cannot register a car, cannot get car insurance, cause obviously taking their license away isn't enough.

[deleted account]

I agree with all the ladies here, you do NOT let someone drive drunk, as Sharon said if you cannot stop them call the police! This sentence is too light, the woman had ***5*** CHANCES and she STILL drove drunk, not only that but she KILLED someone, an innocent loving family man (not that it makes a difference who she killed). She should receive help while in jail to help her overcome her addictions BUT she should spend a long long time in jail, it won't bring the life back that she took but it will stop her killing anyone else hopefully!

Caitlin - posted on 10/15/2010




My stepmothers son (technically my step brother i guess - but he`s 15 years older than me) has a son who lost his license for drunk driving and causing an accident (vs. a post) and he still drives, theres no way to enforce it that they will do. I say have a tow truck show up at the guys house and sit there, and go by weekly, tow the guys car and seize it permanently. If he`s caught driving anyone elses car, tough! The car gets seized and the owner should have to pay 500-1000 dollars to get their car back - they wouldn't lend it to the guy again that's for sure, and all those nice seized cars can be sold off at auction, the money donated to charity that helps families deal with drunk driving injuries and deaths. All you have to do is hire someone or get the neighbour to spy on him or whatever, and call it in if he leaves in a car, then pick him up and tow the car... *sigh*

Krista - posted on 10/15/2010




I completely agree with the others. Drunk driving laws are way too lenient. I've seen people lose their license for a week -- so they just drive around with no license. I've seen people have to put those breathalyzers in their cars, and they just pay someone to breathe into it so that they can start their car. It's bullshit. They need to start jailing people for that crap before more innocent people get hurt.

Caitlin - posted on 10/15/2010




It shoudl have been longer, and yet again i'm dissapointed that it took 5 times for her to finally get a sentence, I don't CARE how long she was sober for, there is NO excuse for drinkinbg and driving. If you are upset and drunk, take a cab or stay at the house you were drinking at, not many people I know would force the person out of their house with car keys in hand if they had been drinking.

[deleted account]

She got what she deserved. I can't see any justification with her being depressed because her actions took another persons life.

[deleted account]

Honestly, I think she should have gotten that sentence before. I could not imagine having my husband or my son killed by a drunk driver. I think the laws are too permissive regarding DUIs. A car is a deadly weapon and operating one under any type of influence is IMO an offesne that should be taken VERY seriously. 5 times before they put this women in jail? She had to KILL someone before anyone decided to stop her??? Beyond me. But at least now she has received a decent sentence.

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