|For Immediate Release
Case # 08NF0504
August 21, 2009
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
THIRD-TIME DRUNKEN DRIVER SENTENCED TO 20 YEARS TO LIFE FOR KILLING MOTHER OF FIVE BY CRASHING INTO BACK OF VICTIM’S BICYCLE
SANTA ANA – A third-time drunken driver was sentenced today to 20 years to life in prison for killing a mother of five by crashing into the victim, who was riding her bicycle, and fleeing the scene. Heather Elizabeth Azkoul, 32, Anaheim, was found guilty by a jury on June 1, 2009, of one felony count of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with prior convictions, one felony count of hit and run causing death, and sentencing enhancements for causing great bodily injury and fleeing the scene of a gross vehicular manslaughter. The defendant has two prior convictions for driving under the influence (DUI) in 2002 and 2004.
On Jan. 22, 2007, Azkoul received a call from a friend asking for a ride home from work at a restaurant at the Block at Orange. When Azkoul arrived to pick up her friend, and with the knowledge that she was going to soon be driving, the defendant and her friend consumed several alcoholic beverages at Alcatraz Brewing Company before leaving. While under the influence of alcohol, Azkoul drove and dropped her friend off at the friend’s home in Anaheim. The defendant then attempted to drive to her own Anaheim home, but became disoriented and ended up on Beach Boulevard in Buena Park.
At approximately 1:45 a.m. on Jan. 23, 2007, Azkoul was driving between 50 and 60 mph in a 45 mph zone on Beach Boulevard. The defendant crashed her car into a bicyclist, 41-year-old Virginia Cordier. The impact of the crash forced the victim to smash into the windshield of Azkoul’s car before being thrown to the ground. The defendant did not stop and fled the scene.
Passing motorists, including a tow truck driver, stopped to help the victim and protect her by blocking traffic with their cars. Cordier was transported to the hospital, where she died an hour later due to blunt force trauma injuries. The victim was a mother of five and grandmother of two. Six months after the crash, her ex-husband, who was devastated by the loss of Cordier, committed suicide. Cordier’s three minor children were placed in foster care.
After assisting the victim and leaving, the tow truck driver saw Azkoul in a parking lot approximately one mile from the scene. He approached the defendant and convinced her to return to the scene with him to speak with police. When officers spoke with Azkoul, the defendant showed objective signs of intoxication including a lack of balance, slurred speech, and emitting an odor of alcohol. An hour after the crash, Azkoul had a blood alcohol level of .18 percent, more than twice the legal limit.
Azkoul had prior personal knowledge that driving under the influence of alcohol could result in serious injury or death. The defendant was required to participate in court-ordered alcohol education courses following her 2002 and 2004 DUI convictions. Additionally, Azkoul was transported the hospital in an ambulance after crashing into a light pole as a result of her 2004 DUI.
Deputy District Attorney Jason Baez of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.