Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
January 21, 2011
Susan Kang Schroeder
JUDGE SENTENCES DRUNKEN DRIVER WHO STALLED HIS CAR AND CAUSED DEADLY COLLISION TO 13 YEARS IN STATE PRISON
SANTA ANA – A judge sentenced a drunken driver today to 13 years in state prison for causing a deadly collision, killing one, after stalling his car on the freeway. Christopher James Koppi, 29, Anaheim, was convicted by a jury April 23, 2010, of one felony count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act with gross negligence while intoxicated. He had a prior conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol in 2000. The court found true that the defendant had a prior strike conviction for felony assault likely to cause great bodily injury in 2001.
Shortly before 4:30 a.m. on Aug. 26, 2006, Koppi drove while under the influence of alcohol southbound on State Route 57 in his gray Ford F150 pickup truck. The defendant ran out of gas and came to a complete stop in his lane underneath the Ball Road overpass. Around the same time, 59-year-old Richard James Pettigrew was also driving southbound in the same lane. The defendant blocked the lane and caused Pettigrew to crash his 1981 Datsun into the stalled pickup truck. Koppi caused the accident, which caused another driver in a Toyota Tacoma truck to crash into the back of Pettigrew’s Datsun. Pettigrew died at the scene due to multiple traumatic injuries caused by blunt force trauma to the head and torso.
Drivers who came upon the accident called 911 and reported it to the California Highway Patrol (CHP). When contacted by a CHP officer at the scene, Koppi exhibited objective signs of intoxication including blood shot eyes, slurred speech, and emitting an odor of alcohol from his breath. At approximately 6:20 a.m., almost two hours after the crash, Koppi had a blood alcohol level of .20 percent, two and a half times the legal limit.
During victim impact statements today, Pettigrew’s son, fiancé and two friends described the victim as a kind and generous man who was a father, a friend, a veteran, and active in his community. They stated that he would literally open up his home to help others in need.
Deputy District Attorney Jason Baez of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.