Kimberly Kreis was sentenced to one year in jail, three years of probation, and 250 hours of community service for her involvement in a car accident that resulted in the deaths of Danielle Murillo, 17, Brian Lopez, 20, and Jessica Leffew, 17, last April.
Prior to the incident, the driver of the vehicle Kreis hit, Erik August, 20, had fallen asleep at the wheel, causing the car to smash into the guard rail, flip over, and ultimately stop in the middle of Highway 101. Kreis, under the influence of both alcohol and methamphetamine at the time, collided with the stopped car as the four passengers were attempting to get out. August — the only one of the four to survive — suffered critical injuries and remained in a coma for over a month.
Kreis — who has a history of substance abuse and felony charges spanning more than 20 years — wasn’t charged with vehicular manslaughter or DUI with injury because the District Attorney’s Office wasn’t sure it could prove that any driver would’ve been able to avoid hitting the flipped car. Kreis pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of possession of a controlled substance and three misdemeanor alcohol and drug-related counts last October. All charges were reduced to a misdemeanor as a result of the passage of Proposition 47 late last year. (Proposition 47 mandates misdemeanors instead of felonies for “non-serious, nonviolent crimes,” unless the defendant has prior convictions for murder, rape, certain sex offenses or certain gun crimes.)
Friends and family packed the courtroom on Tuesday — many wearing shirts showing images of the victims — to hear statements from those close to Murillo, Lopez, and Leffew. Crying as he spoke through an interpreter, Avel Lopez – father of Brian Lopez – called for justice for his only son.
Echoing his calls for justice was the mother of Danielle Murillo, Cheryl Outlaw, who described her daughter as being “smart” and “full of love, life, and laughter.” Reminding the courtroom that her daughter “will never be able to attend prom, graduation, marry, or have children,” Outlaw told Judge Clifford Anderson that “we deserve to have Ms. Kreis off our highways.” Also calling for a tough penalty was the grandmother of Jessica Leffew, who described the time since Jessica’s death to be “like a dream from which you cannot wake up.”
The final speaker was August, who tearfully stated that he “saw a future with Danielle” and that while he likes to have fun, “when it comes time to take responsibility and look out for others, I do it.” (Authorities found no indication that August was driving impaired at the time of the incident). He finished his statement by asking Judge Anderson to “do the right thing.”
Anderson sentenced Kreis to 365 days in custody, going against his earlier recommendation of 180 days. Handing down his sentence, he stated “it’s worth a try to instill sobriety in Ms. Kreis.” In addition to the year-long sentence — which she could serve either behind bars or via electronic monitoring — and probation and community service, Kreis will have to complete an 18-month multiple offender program and a sobriety program.
Feelings among friends and family members were mixed following the announcement of the sentence. Manuel Murillo, father of Danielle Murillo, remarked that “Prop 47 doesn’t taken into account the families of the victims.” He continued to say that that new law hurts victims twice, as people can not only lose a family member, but the person who is responsible may only be punished with probation, a feeling he compares to “getting kicked in the gut.” He also wished that Kreis had shown more remorse for her actions. Cathy Rapoza, a friend of Joe and Cheryl Outlaw, said that she “hopes this is Ms. Kreis’s rock bottom…She was given an opportunity, and I hope she takes it.”
Prosecutor Arnie Tolks chimed in on Prop 47’s effect on the case, too, calling it “a real travesty that…laws aren’t appropriate enough for people like Ms. Kreis.” Defense attorney Bob Sanger declined to comment.