Heather Hulsey, who pleaded no contest in December to killing Dr. Ronald Shlensky while driving drunk in 2006, was rejected from a prison mother/infant program the judge sentenced her to enter.
Hulsey struck the 71-year-old Shlensky, who was walking his dog in Montecito, after drinking at the Montecito Country Club. She fled the scene and wasn’t arrested until more than a week after the incident. She originally received a sentence of six years and four months for the crime-the majority coming from an enhancement because she fled the scene-after pleading no contest right before the case went to trial.
But Hulsey, who has been shown to have a drinking problem both before and after the incident, became pregnant by a man in her rehabilitation program at Casa Serena and in July asked the court for probation to deal with the birth of her child. If she faced a prison term, her family would have to care for the child, or she would have to put the baby up for adoption.
After testimony and making some calls himself, Judge Frank Ochoa was convinced that Hulsey would gain entrance into the Community Prisoner Mother Program, which would allow her to keep the child.
But, according to prosecutor Arnie Tolks, Hulsey possibly didn’t meet the policy criteria because inmates who are violent offenders can’t be allowed into the program. While he didn’t believe she was a violent offender because of the nature of the case-she was drunk driving, a negligent act not a violent one-the state prison program thought otherwise. “The bureaucracy there stuck to their policy,” he said.
While he vehemently opposes it, Tolks is anticipating a probation sentence for Hulsey, something Shlensky’s family members are opposed to. “If Heather was set free on probation it would mean our laws and justice system don’t apply to pregnant people,” Shlensky’s daughter Sheba Lux said. “It would be a terrible precedent to set in this community.”
Because of Hulsey’s past, and the damage and hurt she’s caused, Lux believes prison time is needed, despite the pending birth. “In a lot of situations keeping the mother with the child is best,” Lux said. But not in this situation.”
Hulsey will be back in front of Ochoa in Dept. 1 on Monday at 10:30 a.m.