Rebecca Sandoval pleaded guilty this week to vehicle manslaughter while high on nitrous oxide in a car crash that killed Buellton resident and former teacher Linda Wall two years ago.
As part of the plea deal, Sandoval, 39, also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of nitrous oxide and Lorazepam in July 2013, when she crashed her car into two parked cars on the Chumash reservation, a misdemeanor charge that had been pending. She is expected to be sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office. She was initially charged with murder and had no prior DUI convictions.
On the day of the deadly crash, December 19, 2013, Sandoval, slammed her car into Wall’s Toyota Highlander while traveling at about 55 miles per hour on Highway 246 near Cuesta Road. Wall, who was 68, was slowing for a red light. Her SUV propelled forward into a car stopped at the red light, causing the two passengers inside to sustain minor injuries. Wall died soon after at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
Authorities found nitrous canisters that are typically used for whipped cream in Sandoval’s vehicle, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Mag Nicola. She admitted to “huffing.” Public Defender Patty Dark represented Sandoval.
Wall was a longtime teacher at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, where she taught Spanish and French for 22 years. Her daughter and son-in-law were in court this week and will have the opportunity to read a statement during Sandoval’s sentencing scheduled for January 20. On Christmas Eve, Nicola, District Attorney Joyce Dudley, and prosecutor Mai Trieu met with the victim’s family to discuss the deal. “They decided we should proceed in this direction,” Nicola said.
According to Nicola, this case was originally assigned to both Trieu and Chief Deputy District Attorney Paul Greco, who was put on leave two weeks ago after an extramarital affair with a subordinate in the office escalated to criminal allegations; the investigation of Greco has since been turned over to the California Attorney General’s Office. Promoted to supervising attorney in late 2014, Greco had no cases other than this one, Nicola said.