Dumlao convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter
by NEAL PUTNAM
Published - 01/19/17 - 03:09 PM | 0 0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A jury convicted a man Jan. 18 of gross vehicular manslaughter in the death of a Pacific Beach girl in 2010 in a case involving “huffing” or inhaling chemicals from computer keyboard cleaner cans.

The jury also convicted Romeo Balbin Dumlao, 41, of driving under the influence of these chemicals from cans which were found in his car which killed Ashley Heffington at a stoplight at West Point Loma Boulevard and Sports Arena Boulevard.

The eight man, four woman jury deliberated one day in San Diego Superior Court before convicting him. The girl was critically injured Dec. 31, 2009, and taken off life support on Jan. 12, 2010 after doctors declared she was brain dead.

Dumlao’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, had argued there was no state-wide standard of measurement for diflouroethane, which is an odorless gas. He argued unsuccessfully his client was not under the influence.

Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney said Dumlao’s blood showed high levels of the chemical in his system and showed four cans to the jury which were found in his car.

The jury also determined that the girl’s mother and three others injured in the collision did not suffer great bodily injuries. This means Dumlao can only be sentenced for gross vehicular manslaughter and not receive consecutive sentences for the other injuries.

Rooney said the maximum sentence is around 10 years and eight months in state prison. Judge Louis Hanoian set sentencing for March 3. Dumlao remains in jail without bail.

Armstrong said he considers the verdicts a win because the jury did not find the other victims suffered great bodily injuries. Thus he can’t receive consecutive sentencing enhancements. Dumlao, of Chula Vista, did not testify.

Dumlao pleaded guilty to the charges in 2010 and received 16 years in prison, but 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. Armstrong said he has already served 6 ½ years in prison, and might only need to serve two more years before he is eligible for parole. That’s why Armstrong considers the verdicts a win.

Rooney argued the girl’s mother and three others did suffer great bodily injuries, noting that many still have pain in their bodies. “Seven years of pain is not minor,” said Rooney.

According to court records, Dumlao’s blood showed elevations of the drug Prozac, an anti-depressant, and two other prescription drugs. Armstrong said those drugs were at therapeutic levels.

Cindy Heffington was stopped at a red light in her Toyota Camry at 9:15 a.m. and her daughter was strapped inside a booster seat in the back seat. Dumlao’s Toyota 4Runner rear-ended into her vehicle at approximately 50 mph and struck other vehicles.

Cindy Heffington was the trial’s first witness on Jan. 11. Jurors began deliberations on Tuesday afternoon and returned verdicts Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 18.
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