A judge sentenced Grace Elizabeth Coleman, 23, to 21 years to life in prison for killing a Santa Ana couple after a drunk-driving collision in Newport Beach.
“Ms. Coleman openly accepted responsibility to the judge for this complete tragedy,” said her other defense attorney Paul Meyer.
Coleman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for killing Henry Eduardo Saldana-Mejia, 27, and his wife Gabriela Andrade, 28 on Dec. 8, 2020. The couple’s daughters were also hospitalized after the crash. Their three daughters were between the ages of 1-5 years old. The crash broke all of their legs and the 5-year-old suffered two broken arms, according to Santa Ana police.
According to prosecutors, at the time of the crash, Coleman’s blood-alcohol level of 0.22% was nearly three times the legal limit when she hit the family’s Nissan Versa at the intersection of Newport Coast Drive and Pelican Hills Road South. Newport police said Coleman “possibly” ran a red light as the family turned onto Pelican Hills.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker also claimed that she started driving her car after she was given a ride home.
In addition to the murder charge, Coleman pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury, driving while her BAC was at or over the legal limit of .08%, and failure to stop at hit-and-run with injury and death.
She also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of DUI and driving with a BAC in excess of the legal limit stemming from an Aug. 16, 2020 arrest.
If the case went to trial, Coleman could have been convicted to at least 42 years and eight months.
“We recognize the difficult judicial call in a very tragic case involving a 22-year-old young woman and the truly horrible results of drinking and driving,” Meyer said Friday. “We appreciate the judge’s wisdom in balancing the very sad tragedy with Grace Coleman’s age, full acceptance of responsibility and strong rehabilitation along with her year of selfless community service while in custody.”