Gregory Doan — with the pain and suffering of his victim’s family on his mind — pleaded no contest on Thursday to multiple charges. The plea will result in a sentence of 35 years and four months in prison for the 58-year-old.
Doan, who had a long history of struggling with drugs and alcohol, was driving under the influence when a van he was driving the morning of August 30, 2008, veered off Las Positas Road, striking and killing 66-year-old Carolyn Samuels who was running on the shoulder with a group training for a cancer fundraiser.
Thursday, he pleaded no contest to one charge of vehicular manslaughter with an enhancement of fleeing the scene, 19 counts of assault with a deadly weapon (for driving his car into the group of runners), and one charge of transportation of heroin. As part of the deal, Doan — who will be eligible for parole after he serves 50 percent of his sentence — will never be able to obtain a driver’s license again and, should he be convicted of a felony in the future, will be eligible under the state’s three strikes law for a prison term of 25 years to life. Even if he serves only half of his sentence, Doan would be 75 years old when released.
Doan had four DUI-related incidents prior to 2008. He was convicted of a 1992 accident in Lassen County in which a person was injured, though nothing more is known about that incident.
In a preliminary hearing last year, it was revealed Doan tested positive for opiates at the time of the 2008 accident, and a test taken nearly three hours after the morning collision revealed his blood alcohol content to be at 0.21, nearly three times the legal limit.
Doan, dressed in a blue sport coat and an open-collar blue shirt, spent a couple of minutes in a back room with his girlfriend, explaining his plea to her after going over it with his attorney.
In court, Joyce Dudley, senior deputy district attorney, thanked Doan for his willingness to take a plea deal in order to “spare the family any more anguish,” and indicated after the hearing that the family was content with the sentence he received. Dudley explained that, not long after the incident, Doan wrote an apology letter to Samuels’s family, and said he indicated that when he gets out of prison he “wants to do everything he can to help people understand the tragedies of drinking and driving.”
Nathan Poulos, Doan’s public defender, said that “the whole time [Doan’s] primary concern was Ms. Samuels’s family,” and he hoped the plea would provide some closure for the family.
Doan’s actual sentencing will take place in the coming weeks, when the victim’s family is expected to address the court. Doan will also be given an opportunity to speak.