A man charged with driving drunk and killing a Ph.D. student in a hit and run in Del Mar last month has pleaded guilty, court officials confirmed Wednesday.
Christopher “Chip” Stockmeyer, 41, entered guilty pleas on four felony counts, including gross vehicular manslaughter, DUI, driving with a measurable blood alcohol causing injury and hit and run.
On Mar. 28, at around 10:15 p.m., Stockmeyer fatally struck aspiring marine biologist Rachel Morrison, 27, as she walked with a friend within a crosswalk at the intersection of Camino Del Mar and Coast Boulevard.
Stockmeyer was driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding at the time of the accident. He ran a stop sign and hit Morrison. Her friend managed to dodge Stockmeyer’s car and was not injured.
Stockmeyer immediately fled the scene, leaving the mortally wounded victim behind. The impact flung Morrison about 120 feet into some nearby bushes.
Morrison was taken to Scripps La Jolla hospital, but it was too late. She died shortly thereafter.
Based on evidence left behind at the crash scene that night – namely Stockmeyer’s license plate – sheriff’s deputies and SDPD officers worked together to quickly locate the suspect vehicle involved in the hit and run.
They found the car at an apartment complex in La Jolla. The windshield of the Audi A4 had been broken by the impact of Morrison’s body against the car and there was major damage to the front-end, according to prosecutors.
At that complex, officials tracked down Stockmeyer and arrested him.
According to prosecutors, Stockmeyer had been drinking with co-workers at the Beachside Grill in Encinitas before getting behind the wheel on Mar. 28. When police tracked him down after the fatal crash, officer said he smelled of alcohol.
When asked if he had hit someone, Stockmeyer allegedly told officers he didn’t remember and just wanted to go home and sleep, prosecutors said.
If convicted, Stockmeyer – an engineer and father of two – faces 15 years in prison.
Morrison was a Ph.D. student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego at the time of her death. Her focus of study was fisheries management, a topic she became interested in while doing her undergraduate degree at Boston University, according to her autobiography on UC San Diego's Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation page.
Last week, nearly two dozen of her friends and loved ones packed a courtroom for Stockmeyer’s appearance. They wore pink roses in honor of Morrison and shared a statement written by her family that described Morrison as a “scholar” and athlete who was training to run the Boston Marathon with her father this year.
In the statement, her family added: “Our lives have been destroyed.”
Stockmeyer’s sister also read a statement that day expressing their family’s deepest condolences for Morrison’s loved ones.
“She was an incredible young lady with a wonderful future ahead of her, and it's a terrible loss. We are so, so very sorry,” Jennifer Dinofia said through tears.