Driver in fatal 2010 'huffing' crash sentenced to nearly 11 years

Posted at 11:52 AM, Mar 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-03 14:55:58-05



SAN DIEGO - A motorist who was high on chemicals found in keyboard cleaner when he rear-ended a car at 50-60 mph in the Midway District on the last day of 2009, fatally injuring a 9-year-old girl, was sentenced Friday to nearly 11 years in state prison.
But with credits for time already served, Romeo Dumlao is expected to be released from custody in a couple of weeks, said his attorney, Kerry Armstrong.
Dumlao, 41, originally pleaded guilty in June 2010 to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and a great bodily injury allegation in the death of Ashley Heffington and was sentenced to 16 years behind bars.
The case was sent back to San Diego Superior Court for trial when the California Supreme Court ruled that the great bodily injury allegation could not be attached to the manslaughter charge.
Earlier this year, Dumlao was again convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI with injury, but jurors did not find great bodily injury allegations for any of the other victims involved in the crash, which would have increased the defendant's final sentence.
"These are the toughest cases," said Superior Court Judge Louis Hanoian. "We can't do anything to bring back this beautiful young girl."
Hanoian said the victims "were in the wrong place at the wrong time" when Dumlao -- who was "huffing" the keyboard-cleaner chemicals -- slammed into the back of their car without braking on Dec. 31, 2009, setting off a chain-reaction crash in broad daylight that also injured the victim's mother and several other people.
Five canisters of computer keyboard cleaner were found in Dumlao's car.
Ashley suffered a severe brain injury in the crash and was on life support until she died 12 days later at Rady Children's Hospital.
"Everybody loved her," Cynthia Heffington said of her daughter. "We're forever changed."