A young woman who pleaded guilty to a DUI crash that killed a grandmother and seriously injured the victim’s husband in Lakeside last fall will spend the next 11 years behind bars, a San Diego judge ruled Tuesday.
As part of a plea agreement, Katie Ellison McGrosso, 22, was given a stipulated sentence of 11 years and eight months in the deadly Sept. 25, 2015 DUI crash that claimed the life of El Cajon native Lorraine Kennedy, 55.
According to prosecutors, McGrosso – 21 years old at the time of the crash – got behind the wheel of her car after drinking beer, vodka, sake and Fireball.
As McGrosso drove in the 12000 block of Woodside Avenue near La Palapa Mexican Restaurant, she struck Kennedy and Kennedy's husband. The couple, who were visiting from Texas, were out to dinner with relatives and were walking across the street when they were hit.
Kennedy was impaled by McGrosso’s vehicle, prosecutors said. Her husband was thrown into the air. Family members, including Kennedy’s son, Travis Kennedy, rushed to the couple’s aid.
Travis tried to save his mother’s life by giving her CPR but he testified that he felt Kennedy’s pulse stop moments after the crash.
McGrosso was arrested by California Highway Patrol officers who said she was driving fast without her lights on. An officer said McGrosso’s speech was slurred and her car smelled of alcohol.
She initially pleaded not guilty to four felony counts, including second-degree murder. At that time, her maximum sentence was 21 years to life in prison.
Later, McGrosso changed her plea to guilty on two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter and DUI causing bodily injury.
As witnesses testified at McGrosso's hearing earlier this year, she sobbed. At her sentencing Tuesday, she hung her head low, her long hair covering half of her face.
McGrosso had a prior DUI when she was 17 years old, for which she spent six months at Alcoholics Anonymous classes, prosecutors said.
When Kennedy’s son spoke with NBC 7 in late September 2015, he said his mother “had the biggest heart” and was his best friend. He said Kennedy would be fondly remembered by her loved ones as a loving, kind and caring woman and mother.
Travis spoke at McGrosso's sentencing Tuesday, recounting the heartache of his family. Between tears, Travis talked about what an amazing, forgiving woman his mother was.
"She was compassionate, loving, caring," he said. "She would take the time to talk to anyone. She loved life and wanted to spread that love."
He told McGrosso that even for her, his mother would be there, because she was just that kind.
Speaking directly to McGrosso, Travis added: "You took a best friend away from a lot of people. There is no justification for why you chose to drive drunk that night."
At that point, McGrosso cried, wiping her face with a tissue.
Following the sentencing hearing, NBC 7 spoke with Travis who said McGrosso's family members have offered their sincere apologies to his family several times, but McGrosso herself has never said she was sorry.
San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Steven Schott said prosecutors were pleased with McGrosso's sentencing. Schott said the family wanted justice and today, they got that.