Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
December 11, 2009
Susan Kang Schroeder
DRIVER UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF NARCOTICS SENTENCED TO SIX YEARS IN PRISON FOR KILLING TEEN ON BIKE WHILE SENDING TEXT MESSAGES
SANTA ANA – A text messaging driver under the influence of narcotics was sentenced today to six years in state prison for crashing into and killing a 14-year-old boy on a bike. Jeffrey Francis Woods, 22, Huntington Beach, was found guilty by a jury Nov. 2, 2009, of one felony count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act with gross negligence while intoxicated. The People argued the defendant be sentenced to ten years, the maximum sentence for this type of crime.
Shortly after 2:00 p.m. on Aug. 29, 2007, Woods was driving erratically and following too closely behind other vehicles eastbound on Indianapolis Avenue in Huntington Beach. The defendant was under the influence of controlled substances, Vicodin and Xanax, and was sending text messages and distracted while driving. Woods was sending text messages to friends attempting to illegally obtain Vicodin and Xanax. The last text he sent was one minute before the crash and read, “Need bars?” “Bars” is a street term for Xanax.
Woods suddenly swerved in his pick-up truck over several lanes into oncoming traffic and crossed into the bike lane on the wrong side of the road, crashing into 14-year-old Daniel Oates. The victim, who was riding his bicycle, was thrown over 200 feet and landed in a traffic lane. The defendant then crashed into a palm tree, drove through a wall, and came to a stop in the backyard of a nearby home.
Oates, who was wearing a helmet when Woods crashed into him, died from multiple blunt force injuries caused by the impact of the crash. The victim had been riding his bicycle with his best friend to pick up their class schedules in anticipation of the upcoming school year. Oates, who was nicknamed “Oatie,” was a junior lifeguard.
The defense claimed during trial that Woods suffered a seizure while driving and was unconscious at the time of the crash.
At Woods’ sentencing today, ten of the victim’s family and friend’s made victim impact statements. They all described what a great person Oates was and how there remains a hole in all of their hearts. Oates’ mother spoke of how the defendant robbed her of ever being able to touch or hug her son again. “The day I lost my son I began living deliberately, but not really living.” Oates’ father also stated how the victim was his best friend and just wanted to have the chance to hug his son one last time and to tell him how much they loved him.
Deputy District Attorney Susan Price of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.