‘Huffing’ driver who killed Pacific Beach girl, gets 10 year sentence
by NEAL PUTNAM
Published - 03/06/17 - 03:36 PM | 2166 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A motorist who killed a Pacific Beach girl in 2010 after “huffing”/inhaling chemicals from computer keyboard cleaner cans was sentenced March 3 to 10 years and eight months in state prison.

However, attorney Kerry Armstrong, who represents Romeo Balbin Dumlao, 41, told the judge “he’ll be out in a couple of weeks” because he received credits for already having served seven years in prison.

Ashley Heffington, 9, died Jan. 12, 2010, after Dumlao’s vehicle struck her mother’s car at a stoplight at 9:15 a.m. West Point Loma Boulevard and Sports Arena Boulevard 13 days earlier. Dumlao has been in custody ever since.

Armstrong said Dumlao only has to complete about half the prison term imposed because he was not convicted of inflicting great bodily injuries upon the girl’s mother and others injured in the collision. Dumlao received 16 years in prison in 2010 when he pleaded guilty to all charges, but that was reversed by an appeal.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Louis Hanoian ordered Dumlao to pay $367,643 in restitution to Cindy Heffington, the girl’s mother, for both her and her daughter’s injuries. He was fined $4,294, and given credit for 4,997 days spent in custody including time off for good behavior.

“She was a loving, kind, and happy girl. Our lives will never be the same,” said Cindy Heffington in court. “Losing a child is like an amputation.”

“She was taken from us from a man who chose to huff and drive, a selfish man who I think should never (be free),” said Zoe Feher, the girl’s aunt. “No time will ever be enough so please sentence him to the full extent of the law.”

Armstrong read into the record his client’s apology letter to the family, but all the grieving family members walked out of the courtroom at that point. Dumlao wrote he “felt ashamed of myself” upon seeing the grief he caused.

Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney said Dumlao’s blood showed high levels of the chemical diflouroethane, an odorless gas in keyboard cleaners. Armstrong had argued there was no state-wide standard for measurement of the chemical, but jurors convicted him Jan. 18 of gross vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of a drug.

“Based on the evidence in the trial, he was huffing a lot,” said Hanoian. “It’s hard to imagine, a rear end collision in broad daylight without braking at 50 mph.”

Rooney showed jurors four cans of the keyboard cleaners that were found in Dumlao’s Toyota 4Runner and a rag filled with the cleaners that he apparently applied to his face while driving.

The eight man, four woman jury deliberated one day before convicting him but they also determined there were no great bodily injuries suffered by three others which would have earned consecutive sentences.

Hanoian said because Dumlao pleaded guilty in 2010 to all the charges “that demonstrates remorse for me.” While acting as his own attorney from prison, Dumlao successfully appealed that another judge erred over interpretation of sentencing enhancements.
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