A woman accused of driving under the influence when her car crashed and rolled down an embankment, killing her 5-year-old daughter and injuring her other two young children, was arraigned Tuesday in a courtroom in Vista.
The arraignment for Kapri Raven Coleman, 27, was originally scheduled for Monday morning for the deadly North County crash but was rescheduled for medical reasons.
Coleman, who was appointed a public defender in court Tuesday, entered a not-guilty plea to charges that include murder in the first degree in the death of her daughter Kesha, as well as gross vehicular manslaughter, DUI causing bodily injury and child cruelty.
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Deputy District Attorney David Uyar told NBC 7 that Coleman is being charged with murder instead of vehicular homicide because of applied malice theory -- prosecutors believe she knew that driving under the influence was dangerous and knowingly put her kids at risk.
Uyar told the court that, according to preliminary hospital results, Coleman had a blood-alcohol content of 0.167 at the time of the crash, and traces of other drugs were found in her system as well, including cocaine, amphetamines and marijuana.
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, it's illegal for anybody 21 or older to drive with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08% or higher.
Also at Tuesday's hearing, the judge issued a criminal protective order directing her to stay 1,000 feet away from her surviving children unless the court decides otherwise.
The defendant was traveling northbound on Interstate 15 near Deer Springs Road just before 2:30 a.m. when her sedan, with her three young children inside, went off the roadway and rolled over, the North County Fire Protection District said.
Coleman’s 3-year-old and 5-year-old daughters were ejected in the crash and her 1-year-old son remained restrained in his car seat, which was improperly buckled, according to authorities. CHP said Kesha died at the scene while the toddler and infant were critically injured and airlifted to Rady Children’s Hospital.
The toddler is still hospitalized with a fractured skull, as well as other broken bones, officials said Tuesday; the baby boy has been released from the hospital.
“The death of the 5-year-old is something the family thought would never occur, especially not in this manner, and everyone is hoping the 3-year-old can recover from her injuries and be released from the hospital, but she is gravely injured at this time," Uyar told NBC 7 on Tuesday.
The defendant, meanwhile, suffered minor injures and was taken to an area hospital by ambulance.
“This is a tragic event," Juan Escobar, public information officer for CHP's Oceanside-area office, said shortly after the crash. "It’s something that could be easily avoided. Please, don’t drink and drive. Please, be sure that you do drive the speed limit and that you also wear your seatbelts.”
Coleman is due back in court Aug. 5 for a readiness review hearing. She is currently being held without bail.