A Lompoc woman accused of evading police on Highway 101 near Refugio State Beach before crashing into another driver, whose passenger later died, is seeking to be released from jail for mental health reasons.
In place of custody, the attorney for Dinara Arevalo, 25, wants her client placed on supervised release due to mental health concerns and lack of prior record. Arevalo has been charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, evading an officer causing death and personal infliction of great bodily injury.
The case was continued to Friday to give the prosecution a chance to file an opposition. After hearing arguments from both sides, the judge is expected to hand down a ruling Friday.
Charges stem from a collision that occurred just after 5 p.m. on Oct. 1. Arevalo reportedly was evading police and traveling down Highway 101 near Refugio State Beach before crashing into a Toyota Rav4 driven by Brett Bronstad, 60. Inside Bronstad's car was passenger Michael Garcia, 58, who went into a coma and died Oct. 11.
Arevalo has pleaded not guilty and denied all special allegations in her case.
After Arevalo's mental competency was called into question, two psychologists on Oct. 18 were appointed to evaluate Arevalo. The case was suspended during the evaluation but on Dec. 4, both reports found Arevalo competent and criminal proceedings were restarted.
The motion seeking release, filed Dec. 14 by Arevalo's attorney Catherine Swysen, argues her "mental ability is a pressing concern," as witnessed by everyone -- including police -- and urges the court to release Arevalo so she can receive mental health resources in place of incarceration. Arevalo has been diagnosed with general anxiety, according to the motion, and if released could continue the process of establishing a mental health treatment plan.
Supervised release could include the following conditions: taking medication, participating in counseling, and refraining from substance use and driving. Other conditions could include drugs tests and regular check-ins with pretrial service staff, according to the motion.
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Swysen claims Arevalo's mental state led her to engage in erratic behavior, which caused the Oct. 1 collision.
The day of the collision, at 4:19 p.m., Arevalo's father called 911 seeking help for his daughter who was "having a mental health breakdown and needed to go to the hospital," according to the motion. At the same time, Arevalo called 911, claiming her brother was trying to hurt her. The operator noted that Arevalo sounded like she was having an "anxiety attack or breakdown" and sounded very agitated.
Two Lompoc Police officers made contact with both Arevalo and her father, but officers noted Arevalo was "acting bizarre and talking to people who were not there, and appeared to be hallucinating." Her parents also told officers that Arevalo was not taking the medication she needed.
Arevalo had a "strange blank stare," was speaking rapidly, then sped away in her car, the motion said. Officers pursued Arevalo, managing to catch up to her while she was at a red light. There, they witnessed Arevalo "talking to someone who wasn't in the vehicle with her." She then backed up without looking, refused to pull over and kept driving, according to the motion.
Police terminated the pursuit about nine miles out of town on Highway 1 due to the fact Arevalo was reportedly driving so recklessly and alerted the California Highway Patrol, who took over the chase. CHP officers then witnessed Arevalo waving her arms and arguing with someone who wasn't in the car, according to the motion. They also noted she needed to be mentally evaluated.
After Arevalo crashed into Bronstad, the CHP officer who arrested Arevalo said she was behaving erratically, was disoriented and "yelled repeatedly throughout her arrest."
At the time of the crash, Arevalo was a fourth-year student at UCSB, majoring in psychology, according to the motion that noted Arevalo has strong ties to the community, is a lifelong resident of the county and has no history of violence.
Arevalo's case will be heard Friday at the Lompoc Superior Court.