Trial begins in Fiesta Island cyclist wreck

Posted at 4:39 PM, Sep 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-29 19:39:22-04

A woman was upset with her boyfriend and had methamphetamine in her system when she plowed into a group of cyclists on Fiesta Island, leaving one victim paralyzed from the chest down and seriously injuring three others, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Deputy District Attorney Jessica Coto told jurors in her opening statement that Theresa Lynn Owens made a "choice" to use meth and get behind the wheel on Aug. 12, 2014.

The prosecutor said Owens, 50, was driving the wrong way on a one-way road about 6:30 p.m. when her car plowed into a group of about 25 riders. Ten cyclists were injured, including Juan Carlos Vinolo, who is now in a wheelchair has no feeling from the chest down.

Vinolo and two others riders were embedded in the hood and windshield of the defendant's car, Coto said.

After the accident, a couple of cyclists pulled Owens from her car and she was exhibiting signs of being under the influence of a controlled substance, including acting erratically and being uncooperative, Coto said.

Owens told responding officers that "this wasn't her fault" and blamed the accident on her boyfriend, according to the prosecutor.

Coto said Owens suspected her boyfriend of cheating on her with a younger woman. The day of the crash, the defendant told police she saw her boyfriend with the woman on the other side of Fiesta Island and was driving to cut him off, Coto alleged.

The defendant admitted using meth earlier in the day, saying it was for back pain, according to the prosecutor.

Once at the hospital, Owens was placed in a four-point restraint and tried to bite staff members, Coto told the jury.

The defendant was sedated and a nurse found a bindle of meth in Owens' vagina when she tried to insert a catheter, according to the prosecutor.

Defense attorney Brian Schmidt told the jury that Owens was not impaired at the time of the crash.

"Sometimes an accident is just an accident," Schmidt said.

He said Owens did have meth in her system at the time, but the level was not particularly high, calling it more in the "therapeutic" range.

Schmidt said there were no wrong-way signs near the blind corner where the accident occurred.

Owens faces up to 18 years in state prison if convicted of a felony count of driving under the influence of drugs causing injury -- including great bodily injury allegations -- and two misdemeanor drug counts.