The 37-year-old woman charged with second-degree murder and vehicle manslaughter while under the influence of drugs after a deadly collision last December near the Chumash Casino appeared in court in Santa Maria again this week. Rebecca Sandoval was allegedly high on nitrous oxide when she slammed her car into an SUV, killing the driver, 68-year-old Buellton resident Linda Wall.
On the afternoon of December 19, Sandoval was traveling on Highway 246 near Cuesta Road when she reportedly crashed her Jeep Wrangler into Wall’s Toyota Highlander, which had been slowing for a red light. Wall’s vehicle was propelled forward into a stopped third car, carrying two people who sustained minor injuries, according to a press release from the California Highway Patrol. Wall died in Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital shortly after the incident.
A Santa Barbara native, Wall had recently retired from 38 years of teaching. For 22 of those years, she taught Spanish and French at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School. Several hundred people packed Old Mission Santa Ines for her funeral in late December. She is survived by her husband, three children, and two grandchildren.
On Wednesday, the court heard testimony from three California Highway Patrol officers and one SBPD sergeant regarding both the December crash and a prior uncharged incident in October. “Huffing,” or inhaling nitrous oxide — possibly through a whipped cream dispenser — was reportedly a factor in both.
Since nitrous oxide dissipates very rapidly — the half-life is five minutes — the substance would theoretically be out of a person’s system within 10 minutes. On the night of the fatal crash, blood results demonstrated nitrous oxide was in Sandoval’s system about an hour after the incident, said prosecutor Paul Greco, who is handling the case.
In October during a separate incident, Sandoval was contacted while she was in her parked car near the beach in Santa Barbara, a police officer testified in court. Empty canisters of nitrous oxide were found in her car, and she had reportedly consumed all of them. She was counseled about the incident and officers drove her and her vehicle back to her hotel. She was not cited or arrested, but the officers wrote a report.
Further evidence presented in court demonstrated Sandoval allegedly struck two parked cars while driving under the influence of a “central nervous system depressant” on the reservation last July. According to Greco, a blood sample tested positive for depressants, and Sandoval later admitted during the investigation for the DUI crash to taking the prescription pills.
In February, Sandoval pleaded not guilty to murder and vehicle-manslaughter charges while under the influence, and she has appeared in court a handful of times since December. Sandoval will be arraigned on May 28. She remains in custody and faces 15 years to life in prison.