A Lompoc man charged with murder and felony DUI in connection with a September 2018 crash that killed an Oxnard resident will spend a decade in state prison under a plea deal agreed to Friday in Lompoc Superior Court.
Six months after pleading not guilty to all charges, Bryan Paul Charette pleaded no contest to two felonies — gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 or greater causing bodily injury — in the death of Alfredo Garcia Martinez, 73, in a head-on crash on Highway 1. As part of the agreement, prosecutors from the California Attorney General's Office agreed to dismiss a felony DUI, reckless driving and murder charge.
Judge Raimundo Montes de Oca will sentence the 36-year-old to 10 years in state prison on June 7, slightly lower than the 14-year maximum sentence.
At 7:28 p.m. on Sept. 21, personnel from Santa Barbara County Fire, California Highway Patrol, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, American Medical Response and a CALSTAR medical helicopter responded to a report of a collision on Highway 1, about 5½ miles north of Highway 101.
Upon arrival, crews found that Charette's Honda sedan had collided with Martinez's 1997 Nissan pickup truck. Witness statements obtained by the CHP indicate that Charette was traveling northbound on Hwy. 1 at a high rate of speed, just south of Jalama Road, while making unsafe passing movements over a double yellow line.
Combined with his alleged level of alcohol intoxication, the CHP said Charette allowed his vehicle to cross into the southbound lane and strike Martinez's vehicle head-on. Martinez was pronounced dead at the scene while Charette was airlifted to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with major injuries.
While Charette will be required to pay an undetermined amount in restitution, Deborah Martinez called her father's death an immeasurable loss for the family.
"Pleading guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter and serving less than 10 years in prison will never justify the impact this individual's irresponsible actions caused for our family," she wrote in a victim impact statement submitted to the court. "There is no restitution that will compensate the pain we experience not having our father in our lives."
Remembered for both his smile and his integrity, she said her father was a physical embodiment of joy who served as the "moral and ethical compass" for the family.
"We struggle with the void my father left in our family," the statement read. "We go to bed wishing we could see his physical form in a dream or hear the vibration of his voice. We face every day with a heavy sorrow that is armored with strength in order to maintain his legacy of joy and positivity."
Martinez's death leaves his wife of 45 years an "emotionally broken" widow, the statement added.
As part of the plea deal, the court has determined that Charette is addicted to or "in immediate danger" of becoming addicted to narcotics. The court may order Charette to attend a narcotics treatment and rehabilitation facility as part of his prison sentence.
He will be placed on three-year supervisory period following his release.