Fiesta Island Crash Driver Gets 19 Years in Prison

Theresa Owens, 50, was found guilty of driving under the influence of meth and crashing into a group of bicyclists on Fiesta Island on Aug. 12, 2014

A San Diego woman convicted of driving under the influence of methamphetamine and crashing into a group of bicyclists on Fiesta Island, leaving one cyclist paralyzed, will spend 19 years in prison.

Theresa Owens, 50, asked the judge to be kind to her at her sentencing Thursday. Owens was found guilty last month in the crash that injured 10 cyclists on Aug. 12, 2014. She faced felony charges of driving under the influence causing injury for the wrong turn she made on a one-way route around Fiesta Island.

A victim whose knee was injured in the crash told the judge Thursday that Owens had not taken responsibility, driving with meth in her system with no respect for the law.

Owens pleaded with the judge to consider her children. She said she wants a new beginning.

For that reason, her defense attorney asked for an 8-year sentence. Prosecutors requested she get 20 years and six months in prison, considering her previous felony domestic violence conviction. The prosecution said she previously hit her ex-boyfriend with her car, and she had another DUI on her record from 2002.

During Owens’ trial, many of the victims injured in the chaotic collision took the stand, recounting how the incident permanently scarred them – both physically and emotionally. Testimony included that of La Jolla father Juan Carlos Vinolo, who was struck and left paralyzed when Owens ran into his cycling group.

Vinolo testified the crash wrecked his life.

“My life is destroyed, everything is different,” he said.

According to prosecutors, lab results showed Owens tested positive for meth at the time of the collision. Prosecutors said that at the time of Owens’ arrest, police said they found a bag of meth hidden in her vagina.

Over the course of her trial, Owens’ attorney argued that although Owens had meth in her system, her driving was not impaired by the drug at the time of the crash.

After Owens’ guilty verdict was announced on Oct. 8, San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Jessica Coto told NBC 7 she felt justice was served and called the jury’s decision a "step in the right direction" toward helping the victims of the crash begin healing.

Coto said the verdict also sent a strong message to drivers on San Diego's roadways.

“The public will not tolerate people getting high on drugs and getting behind the wheel of a car,” said Coto. “She changed lives forever, all because she wanted to get high.”

The crash prompted the city of San Diego to improve signs and road safety in the area to prevent another incident.

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