Woman who drove the wrong way while drunk and caused a fatal collision receives six-year term

April Thompson, 23, pleaded guilty in June

EL CAJON, Calif. - A woman who drove the wrong way while drunk on state Route 52, causing a head-on collision that killed the other motorist, was sentenced Tuesday to six years in state prison.

April Carole Thompson, 23, pleaded guilty in June to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Thompson, who had faced a maximum of 10 years behind bars, also admitted allegations of use of a deadly weapon, causing great bodily injury and driving with a blood-alcohol level of .15 percent or higher.

Defense attorney Kevin Haughton unsuccessfully argued that Thompson be granted probation, telling Judge Daniel Goldstein that she was sexually abused as a child, taken away from her biological parents and four siblings and given up for adoption.

"Her decision to drink is understandable, if not acceptable," Haughton told the judge.

Goldstein said that while Thompson's previous abuse is not an excuse to drive a vehicle while under the influence, it explains her chronic substance abuse. He called Thompson's tolerance to alcohol "extraordinary."

"The relationship between her prior abuse and her substance abuse is important in rehabilitation. But it does not have an effect on what she pled to, which is gross vehicular manslaughter," Goldstein said. "Her intent doesn't matter. Due to her conduct ... not her intent, not her lifetime of work ... at a particular moment in time on a particular evening in San Diego County, she killed someone. And that makes it a prison sentence."

Thompson, who cried throughout the hearing, read a letter to the victim's family in which she accepted responsibility and sought forgiveness.

The defendant, who had no prior criminal record, will serve three years -- or 50 percent -- of the six-year sentence, said Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon. The prosecutor had asked for the maximum 10-year term.

Thompson was driving west in an eastbound lane of SR-52 about 1 a.m. on Dec. 29, 2012, when her Chevrolet truck crashed head-on into a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle driven by 25-year-old Jayme Alan Midlam, who died at the scene.

Thompson was treated at a hospital for moderate injuries.

CHP Officer Albert Udan, testifying at a hearing in January, said the driver of a big rig told him that he saw oncoming headlights and immediately slowed to 35 mph and pulled over the right side of the freeway. The trucker said the victim's car passed him and was hit head-on by Thompson's vehicle.

After the crash, Thompson tried to back out of the wreckage, but was unsuccessful, according to court testimony.

CHP Officer Shad Davidson testified that two men trying to get Thompson out of her truck told him that she kept saying "she just wanted to go home."

Thompson's blood-alcohol level was .21 percent at the time of the collision, Runyon said.

In court Tuesday, Runyon said that Thompson admitted to drinking at least three beers and six shots of rum with soda water the night of the crash.

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