Drunk driver sentenced for crash that killed Texas grandmother

Posted at 12:08 PM, Aug 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-09 22:01:10-04

EL CAJON, Calif. - A woman who drove drunk with her headlights off in Lakeside, killing a grandmother and seriously injuring the victim's husband, was sentenced Tuesday to 11 years and eight months in prison.

"You might as well (have) been driving a gun," Judge Daniel Goldstein said in sentencing Katie McGrosso, 22, who pleaded guilty in May to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI causing injury.

After her arrest, McGrosso was charged with second-degree murder in the death last Sept. 25 of Lorraine Kennedy of Brenham, Texas, who had traveled to San Diego with her husband, David Sandel, to celebrate her granddaughter's 4th birthday.

McGrosso could have faced life in prison.

Lorraine Kennedy's son, Travis Kennedy, said her family agreed to accept the defendant's plea to a lesser charge to shine a light on his mother's life. He said his mother would have forgiven the defendant, but he was not ready to do that.

Kennedy described his mother as "the brightest light in any room. She was the true definition of an angel on earth."

"You not only took our mother, you took our grandma for our children. You took a daughter from our grandma," he added.

Kennedy urged McGrosso to talk to others about the dangers of drinking and driving, adding, "She believed everyone deserved many chances."

"Katie, I cannot say I forgive you today. I can only say that I understand mistakes happen. I've made my fair share. I had a mother that taught me that mistakes are okay as long as we learned from them. They were not mistakes but only tough life lessons," he said.

Travis Kennedy had testified at a preliminary hearing in February that he, his girlfriend, his mother, stepfather and uncle had just left a Mexican restaurant and were headed to their cars when the accident happened.

Travis Kennedy said he saw a car stopped in the street and ran to his 55-year-old mother, who was lying in front of it.

Sandel testified that he suffered a lacerated liver, four broken ribs, leg and head injuries and a torn shoulder.

At McGrosso's arraignment, Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright told a judge that the defendant -- an auto mechanic -- went to a restaurant after work and had a vodka and a shot of Fireball whisky, followed by four shots of sake at a sushi bar.

Bright said the defendant then drove to Lakeside. She was traveling "at a significant speed" in the 12200 block of Woodside Avenue with her lights off when she struck the Texas residents as they crossed the street behind Travis Kennedy and his girlfriend.

Lorraine Kennedy ended up on McGrosso's windshield, and Sandel was thrown more than 100 feet.

McGrosso also suffered major injuries when her Toyota Yaris struck the victims.

At the hospital, McGrosso's blood-alcohol level was measured at .12 percent, Bright said.

McGrosso admitted that she had a prior DUI when she was 17 and had attended six months of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, according to the prosecutor.