Man Who Killed Girl In Crash While High Sentenced

Romeo Dumlao Jr., 34, Pleaded Guilty To Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated

A man who was high on chemicals found in keyboard cleaner when he rear-ended a car stopped at a red light on New Year's Eve, killing a 9-year-old girl, was sentenced Monday to 16 years in prison.

Romeo Dumlao Jr., 34, pleaded guilty last month to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for causing the crash in the Midway area that killed Ashley Heffington and injured her mother.

"She was only 9 years old," Cindy Heffington told Judge Eugenia Eyherabide. "She had her whole life ahead of her. I don't know how I'm ever going to recover from this. Please don't ever let him (Dumlao) drive again so he can't do this to someone else."

The judge, in explaining to the victim's mother that she couldn't order a lifelong driving ban, noted the defendant was going off to prison and would be on parole when he gets out.

Cindy Heffington said her daughter had expressed interest in becoming a pediatrician. The girl's death was hardest on her 7-year-old brother, the mother said.

The defendant apologized to the victim's family and asked for forgiveness, as did his father.

"I can never replace your loss," he said. "If God can forgive me, maybe the (victim's) family can forgive me, as well."

The victims were in a Toyota Camry that was stopped at a red light about 9 a.m. near Sports Arena Boulevard and West Point Loma Boulevard when it was struck from behind by Dumlao's Toyota 4Runner.

The impact of the crash crushed the girl's skull, and she was taken off life support 12 days later.

Witnesses said Dumlao never braked and was driving 50-70 mph when he crashed the SUV into the Camry, said Deputy District Attorney Christopher Lawson.

The defendant was passed out when emergency personnel arrived at the crash scene, the prosecutor added.

Authorities found several cans of computer keyboard cleaner in Dumlao's SUV, and the defendant tested positive for the chemical found in those products, the prosecutor said.

The abuse of tetrafluorethane -- or difluorethane -- where people inhale the propellant in aerosol cans to get high, is called "huffing," according to medical experts.