Judge rules man who was high on meth during Poway car crash is mentally competent

Gillespie pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter

SAN DIEGO - A man who was high on methamphetamine last year when he ran a red light, crashed into a Poway fire truck and killed a 19-year-old passenger in his car is mentally competent, a judge ruled Friday.

Superior Court Judge Joseph Brannigan made the finding after reviewing a doctor's evaluation of Robbie Dean Gillespie, who pleaded guilty last September to gross vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of drugs and possession of methamphetamine.

Gillespie's attorney asked that his 45-year-old client's mental competency be examined before sentencing, which is now scheduled for Feb. 28 at the South Bay Courthouse before Judge Dwayne Moring.

At that time, Gillespie may make a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, said his attorney, Bonita Martinez.

"I have records that indicated that Mr. Gillespie was suffering from a severe mental disorder many, many years back," Martinez told reporters. "There was also a very strong history of mental illness, and he was also suffering, and is still suffering currently, from what the doctors called severe obstructive sleep apnea."

Martinez said doctors recommended that Gillespie should not drive, but he wasn't told that.

"As a result of the severe obstructive sleep apnea, he was actually rendered unconscious during that unfortunate incident that occurred in the collision with the fire truck," Martinez said.

Gillespie was arrested last Aug. 1 at his home in the 12000 block of Alta Carmel Court in Rancho Bernardo for the June 20 death of Evelyn Courtney, an aspiring fashion model.

Deputy District Attorney Dan Link said Gillespie was arrested June 18 for having 1.8 grams of meth in a Poway hotel room. Two men and two women, 18 and 19 years old, were also in the room. Gillespie bailed out of jail the next morning and admitted using meth and marijuana while free, Link said.

On June 20 about 4 a.m., Gillespie got in a car with Courtney, whom he described as a friend, and was driving under the influence of meth when he ran a red light and collided with the front of a fire truck going about 40 mph. Courtney died at the scene. Gillespie was freed from the wreckage and hospitalized.

Gillespie was arrested but not charged until a traffic investigation was completed. In interviews with news outlets, Gillespie said he was taking Courtney home when the accident happened.

An open alcoholic beverage container was found in Gillespie's Honda Accord, sheriff's deputies said.

Gillespie faces a sentence ranging from probation to a maximum of 10 years and eight months in prison, Link said.

The victim's parents filed a claim with the city of Poway -- the first step before a lawsuit can be filed against a government agency -- alleging the firefighter who was driving the fire engine that morning hadn't yet passed a test qualifying him to operate the vehicle.

 

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