|For Immediate Release
Case # 10HF0233
May 31, 2011
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
SECOND-TIME DRUNKEN DRIVER FACES TRIAL
FOR MURDERING ANOTHER DRIVER
IN VALENTINE’S DAY CRASH
SANTA ANA – A second-time drunken driver with a prior driving under the influence conviction and a blood alcohol level over twice the legal limit faces trial tomorrow for murdering a 20-year-old passenger in another car in a high-speed Valentine’s Day crash. Gustavo Adrian Vega, 23, Costa Mesa, who was then a student at Orange Coast Community College, is charged with one felony count of murder, one felony count of hit-and-run resulting in death, one felony count of possession of cocaine, and a misdemeanor hit-and-run involving another victim. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 19 years and eight months to life in state prison. Opening statements are expected to begin tomorrow, June 1, 2011, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-42, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Early in the morning of Feb. 14, 2010, the defendant is accused of consuming alcohol. He is accused of hitting a parked car in the parking lot of a Santa Ana taqueria and knowingly fleeing the scene of this accident without exchanging identifying information with the driver of the other vehicle.
Shortly before 2:30 a.m., the defendant is accused of driving on Flower Street towards Sunflower Avenue in Costa Mesa in his white 2008 Toyota Tundra. Hao Nguyen, 21, was driving westbound in his 2003 Toyota Corolla on Sunflower Avenue with friend Cara Lee, 20, seated in the passenger seat.
Vega is accused of speeding through a red light and hitting Nguyen’s Corolla, which was travelling through the intersection on a green light. Nguyen was taken to Western Medical Center with minor injuries. The defendant is accused of murdering Lee with the impact of the crash. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
The defendant is accused of fleeing on foot and hiding in a nearby housing complex, he was found shortly thereafter by Costa Mesa police officers. When contacted by officers, Vega is accused of displaying objective signs of intoxication including emitting a strong odor of alcohol from his breath, having bloodshot and watery eyes, and poorly performing field sobriety tests. He is accused of having a blood alcohol content of .17 percent, more than twice the legal limit. The defendant is accused of possessing a useable amount of cocaine in his pants pocket.
The defendant is accused of having prior knowledge that driving while under the influence of alcohol could result in the death of another person based on a prior misdemeanor driving under the influence charge, to which he pleaded guilty on Dec. 11, 2006 (Case # 06CM10804). The defendant signed an acknowledgement in his guilty plea Tahl form that he could be prosecuted for murder if he killed someone while driving under the influence. He also learned about the dangers of drinking and driving in alcohol awareness courses as a condition of his sentence.
Lee was an only child and pursuing a modeling career while attending college. At the time of her death, Lee was working with children as a recreational youth leader for the City of Newport Beach. She survived a battle against cancer at age 17.