Teen pleads not guilty in fatal crash recorded on Instagram
LOS BANOS, Calif. (AP) — A California teenager pleaded not guilty Wednesday to felony charges of vehicular manslaughter and drunken driving after she lost control of her car while livestreaming on Instagram and recording a crash that killed her younger sister.
Obdulia Sanchez, 18, appeared via remote camera in Merced County Superior Court, dressed in yellow inmate garb. She pleaded not guilty to all six counts and responded a “little bit” when the judge asked whether she understood the charges against her.
Ramnik Samrao, a public defender who represents Sanchez, said the teen believes she killed her sister.
“Anybody can say very easily that she is responsible for the death. She believes that too. She said multiple times, ‘I killed my sister, I killed my sister,’” Samrao said outside court. “There’s no doubt about that, but whether there was a crime committed, that’s a separate story.”
The judge set bail at $560,000.
Sanchez was driving the car on Friday when it veered onto the shoulder of a road about 75 miles (121 kilometers) northwest of Fresno.
Authorities said she overcorrected, causing the vehicle to swerve and overturn into a field, ejecting and killing her 14-year-old sister, Jacqueline Sanchez.
Prosecutors say the video, which includes images of her dancing to music while driving and taking her hands from the steering wheel, will be a key piece of evidence in the case.
In a statement, Merced County Chief Deputy District Attorney Harold Nutt had called the behavior “disturbing and shocking.”
“It reflects some depravity and some stupidity and that sort of thing. It’s shocking behavior, no question about it,” Nutt said outside court.
He said Sanchez’s blood alcohol content was 0.10. In California, .01 percent blood alcohol content is illegal for those under 21, said Jessica Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Sanchez was convicted of reckless driving in 2015 for driving without a license when she was 14, Gonzalez said.
After a gap in the livestream of the crash, the driver is seen leaning over the girl’s body, saying she was sorry. She said she expected to spend the rest of her life in prison but doesn’t care.
“This is the last thing I wanted to happen, OK? ... Rest in peace, sweetie,” the teen says. “If you don’t survive, I’m so (expletive) sorry.”
Another 14-year-old girl suffered a leg injury in the crash.
The six counts against Sanchez also include drunken driving resulting in injuries. Prosecutors say Sanchez could spend more than 13 years in state prison if convicted of all the charges.
Her father, Nicandro Sanchez, has called it an unexplainable accident and said Obdulia had been in the custody of Child Protective Services the past two years.
The girl who survived the crash said she wasn’t mad at anyone and doesn’t blame the driver.
Instead, Manuela Seja blamed social media, which she said has taken over people’s lives, television station KSEE in Fresno (http://bit.ly/2v2bYRB) reported.
The story has been corrected to show Sanchez faces charges on six counts, not five.