Newport Beach police say 22-year-old Grace Elizabeth Coleman was driving her Range Rover when she ran a red light and collided with a Nissan Tuesday evening. The collision killed Santa Ana residents, 27-year-old Henry Saldana-Mejia and his 28-year-old wife, Gabriela Andrade, and seriously injured the couple’s three young daughters
Coleman is facing five felony counts related to the crash on December 8th, including two counts of second-degree murder and one count of hit-and-run, driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury, and driving with a BAC of over .08% or more causing bodily injury.
The complaint alleges Coleman had a blood-alcohol content of .20 at the time of the crash, more than twice the legal limit. If convicted, she faces up to 38 years in prison.
Police say this is Coleman’s 2nd DUI incident in the past four months. She was also charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol and misdemeanor driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08% or more for an incident on August 29th in Laguna Beach. The complaint alleges she had a blood alcohol content of .15, but no injuries were sustained in this incident.
Family members of the victims said that Henry Saldana-Mejia and Gabriela Andrade were planning to take their three young daughters, ages one, four, and five, to see Christmas lights after picking up Saldana-Mejia’s paycheck from the nearby Pelican Hill Resort.
Prosecutors can charge a motorist with the more serious charge of second-degree murder if they feel they can prove the defendant drove while under the influence while understanding it could result in injury or death. In California, all drivers convicted of driving under the influence receive a formal warning that their actions could result in injury or death to others. This notice is referred to as a “Watson advisement.” Once an individual receives this formal notice, they can be charged with murder in any subsequent DUI that results in a fatality. It is unclear whether Coleman received a Watson advisement in connection with the incident on August 29th.
Numerous GoFundMe pages have been set up for the couples’ funeral expenses and others for their young daughters’ future expenses. Our deepest condolences and sympathies are with the families and friends affected by the loss of these individuals.