Trial begins for Dumlao, charged with vehicular manslaughter
by NEAL PUTNAM
Published - 01/13/17 - 07:07 AM | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The driver of a car that killed a Pacific Beach girl in 2010 in the Midway area was “huffing” and under the influence of a chemical in computer keyboard cleaner cans, a prosecutor told a jury on Wednesday.

Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney held up cans recovered from the car of Romeo Balbin Dumlao, 41, and told jurors “these were used for huffing.”

His attorney, Kerry Armstrong, disputed that, saying he was not under the influence of the odorless gas known as diflouroethane.

Dumlao is on trial for gross vehicular manslaughter in the death of Ashley Heffington, 9, who was critically injured Dec. 31, 2009, and declared brain dead on Jan. 11, 2010. Her mother, Cindy Heffington, testified as the first witness and talked of the difficult decision to take her off life support and she died Jan. 12, 2010.

Cindy Heffington said she was at a stoplight in the intersection between West Point Loma Boulevard and Sports Arena Boulevard at 9:11 a.m. when Dumlao’s SUV struck her vehicle and other cars at a high rate of speed. She said she feared Dumlao might not stop, but she had no time to react and was at a red light.

Rooney told the eight man, four woman jury the tops on all four cans recovered from Dumlao’s vehicle were off and there was a rag in a cup that was filled with the substance. She said that is how people who huff often inhale the drug and removing the caps cause the chemical to come out at a faster rate.

Armstrong told jurors there is no statewide standard to determine if someone was high on diflouroethane – unlike the blood/alcohol level of someone who is drunk. Both attorneys said there was no alcohol in Dumlao’s system.

Armstrong said Dumlao had “a therapeutic level” of the prescription drugs Prozac and Seroquel, and added it could have caused him to become drowsy while driving. He said this was a car accident and should have been decided in a civil lawsuit.

Armstrong said he didn’t contest that Dumlao crashed into Cindy Heffington’s vehicle, but he was not under the influence of diflouroethane. He also said Dumlao did not cause great bodily injuries to Cindy Heffington and another motorist.

What the jury was not told was that Dumlao pleaded guilty to the charges in 2010 and received 16 years in prison. He got his guilty plea reversed while acting as his own attorney from prison. Dumlao successfully persuaded a judge his sentence was the result of a judicial error over interpretation of sentencing enhancements.

His guilty plea was reversed in March, 2016, and he was returned to San Diego to face trial. He has pleaded not guilty. Dumlao remains in jail on $1 million bail.
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