Woman Accused In Fatal DUI Crash Pleads Not Guilty

Debbie Sumi, 33, Held On $5M Bail

A San Marcos woman who was allegedly drunk when her SUV slammed into a car parked on the shoulder of state Route 78, killing three people, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to gross vehicular manslaughter and DUI causing injury.

Debbie Sumi, a 33-year-old mother of four, was seriously injured in the Aug. 13 crash and was ordered held on $5 million bail.

Sumi entered the courtroom using a walker and wearing a body brace. She cried as the charges against her were read.

Deputy District Attorney Jodi Breton told Vista Superior Court Judge Marshall Hockett that Sumi's blood-alcohol level was measured at .34 percent -- more than four times the legal limit -- following the crash.

Breton said of the blood alcohol level, “Over four times the legal limit … most people at that level are passed out or dead.”

Sumi's level translates to at least 15 drinks in her system, according to Breton.

The defendant did not have a valid driver's license, according to Department of Motor Vehicles records.

The chain of events leading to the triple fatality began about 12:30 a.m. when the driver of a westbound 2008 Nissan Altima pulled to the side of the freeway because one of her three passengers was ill, according to the California Highway Patrol.

After parking on the shoulder, the driver got out of the car along with another woman and another passenger, 25-year-old Omar Guzman of Oceanside, CHP public affairs Officer Eric Newbury said.

A short time later, an oncoming 1994 Jeep Cherokee drifted off the freeway and smashed into the Altima and the two women standing alongside it, killing Susana Orozco of Escondido and Erica Oliva of Fallbrook, both 23, and hurling 21-year-old Gerardo Cortez of Oceanside out of the parked car, the CHP reported.

Following the impact, the Cherokee skidded across the roadway and overturned, throwing Sumi onto the pavement and partially ejecting her passenger, 34-year-old Orange County resident Larry Alvarez, who died at the scene.

Medics took Sumi to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido for treatment of severe injuries.

Despite being flung out of the parked car, Cortez suffered only minor injuries, according to Newbury, and Guzman escaped unscathed.

Sumi, who faces 16 years in prison if convicted, is due back in court on Nov. 8 for a preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.