“Sometimes an accident is just an accident,” began attorney Brian Schmidt, who represents Theresa Owens, 50, of San Diego.
While acknowledging the Aug. 12, 2014 collision was “a horrific accident,” Schmidt said there were no one-way signs on Fiesta Island Road and implied she did not know she was driving the wrong way.
“She could not avoid hitting the bicyclists as they couldn’t see each other,” said Schmidt, who added she drove into a blind corner of the road before the collision.
In her opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Jessica Coto began by saying “This is a case about choices – a choice about taking methamphetamine and getting behind the wheel.”
“Out of nowhere, the defendant’s car came driving the wrong way on a one way road,” said Coto, who added “she didn’t swerve at all” before striking the riders.
Coto said there were 25 bicyclists who were going about 24 mph in a double column in the loop around the island when suddenly Owens’ car appeared and struck 10 of them. She said one woman was embedded into the windshield.
Coto said Juan Carlos Vinolo, 44, was “embedded into the hood” of Owens’ car and is now paralyzed from the waist down. Owens is accused of causing great bodily injury to Vinolo, whose bicycle was broken in half. Coto said Steven Hale shattered his elbow, but recently got an infection, and is now on an IV drip.
The prosecutor said Owens admitted to doing “a line of meth” for her back pain that morning to an officer. She said Owens was “extremely agitated” at the crash site and had to be in restraints with a sedative at a hospital before they could get a blood sample.
Coto told jurors a nurse found a wrapped piece of methamphetamine weighing 1.1 grams inside Owens’ vagina. She is also charged with meth possession.
Coto said Owens told officers her boyfriend was at fault for the accident, saying he was seeing someone else. Owens claimed to have seen him on the other side of the island and was racing to meet him, said Coto.
The first witness was Michael Barrerao, one of the bicyclists who was there, but not injured. Barrerao identified Owens, saying she was disheveled, and alternated between remorse and ranting about things he could not understand.
If convicted of all charges, she faces a maximum sentence of 18 years in prison. One jury has already determined she is mentally competent to stand trial. She remains in the Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility on $100,000 bail.