Repeat DUI offender sentenced to nearly 23 years

Posted at 4:59 PM, May 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-17 19:59:08-04

A repeat DUI offender who drove drunk and caused a head-on collision near Pala last summer that killed the other driver, then fled the scene, pleaded guilty Tuesday to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Garrett James Gelrud, 35, is expected to be sentenced to 22 years and eight months to life in state prison in the death last Aug. 5 of Juan Corza Gonzalez, a rancher from North County.

Formal sentencing is set for July 15 in Vista.

Gelrud, who entered the plea on the eve of trial, also admitted that he had two prior convictions for DUI; that he was out on bail on a felony offense at the time of the fatal crash; and that he left the scene.    

He additionally pleaded guilty to hit-and-run causing injury in a separate case stemming from a crash that occurred on July 1 last year.     

Authorities said Gonzalez was driving on Old Highway 395 near Bonsall about 5:30 a.m. Aug. 5 when Gelrud -- driving a Chevrolet Suburban -- crossed the double yellow lines just north of Lilac Road and smashed into the 62-year- old victim's Nissan Versa.

Gelrud fled the scene on foot but was arrested later in the morning.

According to evidence introduced at a preliminary hearing in January, Gelrud's blood was drawn nearly four hours after the fatal crash and the result was .06 percent for alcohol, positive for marijuana and above a therapeutic dosage of Valium.

Chelsea Carter, of the San Diego Sheriff's Crime Lab, testified that Gelrud's blood-alcohol level would have been between .11 and 12 percent -- the legal limit is .08 -- at the time of the collision.