A San Diego woman faces more than a decade behind bars after she pleads guilty in a road rage collision that killed a motorcyclist on State Route 54 almost two years ago.
Darla Renee Jackson crashed her vehicle into a Ducati motorcycle on the busy connector between Interstate 5 and SR 54 in National City on May 28, 2015.
The motorcycle rider, Chief Petty Officer Zach Buob, died in the crash.
California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers said Jackson and Buob got into some type of disagreement on the roadway.
Prosecutors initially charged Jackson with murder, arguing she ran over Buob intentionally.
On Tuesday, Jackson pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, according to her defense attorney, Stephen Cline. The one count of murder was dropped.
"She was concerned whether she could get a jury that could look at the real facts of this case," Cline said. "She decided she couldn't do it."
At a previous hearing, the CHP detective who investigated the case described the witness accounts of the crash where Jackson was seen accelerating into the motorcycle, which had slowed down prior to the impact.
CHP Detective Brad Clinkscales testified that Jackson's story changed throughout their investigation.
"She stated as soon as the motorcycle hit her and flipped her off, she said she wasn't going to let him do that; she wanted to get his information," Clinkscales testified.
Black box results from the car show Jackson did "very little" to stop from the 95 miles per hour she was driving six seconds before the crash, investigators said. When she hit the motorcycle, she was driving 81 miles per hour.
According to Clinkscales, Jackson said Buob slowed down, shook his head, and hit the right side of her car for no reason.
Cline has said the fatal crash was an accident and that Jackson has been diagnosed with severe Complex Trauma Disorder.
"She had no criminal history prior to that date. The prosecution has gone to great lengths during the pendency of this case to paint the defendant as a crazed woman with an explosive temper prone to violent outbursts," Cline said.
Cline said that the defense's argument that Jackson accelerated toward Buob was based off one witness who had "a slew of impeachment/bias issues."
"In fact, none of the other percipient witnesses, including the second witness in passenger seat of that same vehicle corroborate this witness’ claims. In fact, all of the other percipient witnesses’ statements conflict with this witness’ version of events," Cline said.
That day, Buob sped past her and kicked her car after getting back about something, Cline said.
"She chased him in the spur of the moment onto the 54, trying to get his information because he had done substantial damage to her car door," he said.
Jackson ultimately hit the Ducati from behind and ran over the rider, CHP officers said.
Buob, 39, died a short time after the crash at the hospital. The service member served 20 years in the military, and his friends mourned the fact that, despite carrying out so many tours, he died in his home country.
Jackson, 26, faces a maximum of 11 years in prison. She will be sentenced on April 14 in the South Bay.