Soranon Booppanon ordered to stand trial in crash that killed George Matteson

SAN DIEGO - A disabled Air Force veteran accused of driving under the influence of four depressants and causing a multi-car crash in University City that killed a 77-year-old man in another car was ordered Thursday to stand trial on charges of gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of drugs.

Soranon Booppanon, 39, faces 15 years in prison if convicted.

Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey said Booppanon was under the influence of Valium and three other prescription medications about 10:30 a.m. last Oct. 23 when she blew through a red light on westbound La Jolla Village Drive at Genesee and caused a chain-reaction crash that killed George Matteson of Pacific Beach.

"Her light had clearly turned red," said Harvey. "The light for the other motorists had turned green. The evidence shows that her Toyota Prius first hit an Audi, then T-boned, hit the Volkswagen Golf, killing him instantly, then she collided into a Titan truck."

An autopsy revealed the victim died from blunt impact injuries to the head and torso.

Matteson's 74-year-old wife, Betty, received more than 10 broken bones and was seriously injured.

Harvey said Booppanon was going 68 mph and accelerating when she ran the light.

"She never should have been driving," the prosecutor said outside court.

Defense attorney Cole Casey said Booppanon, who holds a Ph.D., has numerous medical problems as a result of 13 years in the military, and was on her way to the Veteran's Administration when the crash happened.

"My client is a disabled veteran," said Casey. "She spent many years in the service. Her life essentially consists of her being at home and being under the care and treatment of the Veteran's Administrations Hospitals that's where she was on the way. That's where she was going when this accident happened."

Casey said his client was taking four prescription medications at the time of the crash for biological and psychiatric injuries. That day, she had a high dose of Valium in her system.

Casey said he was hopeful his client would be eligible for Veteran's Court, a program designed to help military veterans get treatment after finding themselves in legal trouble.

Following Thursday's preliminary hearing, Judge Laura Alksne found that enough evidence was presented for Booppanon to stand trial June 2.

Booppanon must remain on home detention, leaving only for doctor's appointments and court appearances, the judge ruled.

Casey said his client would continue to obey all court orders.

"She's terrified," Casey said of the defendant, who needs a walker to get around.

During her arraignment in October, she wailed out an apology in the courtroom.
"Just apologize to the family for me," she cried out.

Booppanon remains on house arrest and wears a GPS monitor.

She's only allowed go to court and medical appointments and cannot drive on her own. When the lack of having a driver's license was brought up in court again Thursday, Booppanon shook her head.

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