Man charged with manslaughter, DUI in Los Osos teen's death

Friends and family remember Jackson Garland, 18, as a sweet, responsible and fun-loving guy

clambert@thetribunenews.com, ppemberton@thetribunenews.comJune 20, 2014 

A man who allegedly drove into the wrong lane, killing a Los Osos teen, was formally charged with vehicular manslaughter Friday. Meanwhile, the brothers and sisters of 18-year-old Jackson Garland continued mourning the death of their youngest sibling.

Alexander Paul Gonzales, 22, of Paso Robles will appear in San Luis Obispo Superior Court for his initial arraignment Monday.

Gonzales, a Liberty High School graduate who has no criminal history in this county, was charged with the felony gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and driving under the influence with an enhancement for inflicting great bodily injury.

According to the CHP, Gonzales was speeding north on South Bay Boulevard in Los Osos around 5:07 p.m. Wednesday, when his Dodge Charger veered into the southbound lane, where Garland was driving a Chevrolet Cavalier.

After the collision that followed, Garland was pronounced dead at the scene.

Toxicology and accident reports are still pending, said CHP officer Richard Lee.

Garland’s oldest sister, Jenn Garland, said the teen was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and spent the first three years of his life there before moving west with his mother.

The rest of his siblings — two brothers and two sisters — as well as his father, Jim Garland, still live in Maryland. They learned of his death late Wednesday.

“Our family here in Maryland has been crying since last night,” Jenn Garland wrote in an email Thursday.

In a telephone interview Friday, she said her half-brother visited his East Coast family during the summer and over Christmas break.

“He rode bikes, had water-gun fights; we would take him to amusement parks,” said Jenn Garland, 32. Their dad often took Jackson Garland to a home he has on Solomons Island, in the southern part of the state, to go fishing and crabbing.

Jenn Garland said her brother spent a lot of time with her three children, Justin, Jenna and Brian.

“He was very good with them,” she said. “He always had a good head on his shoulders.”

Jackson Garland’s former girlfriend, Leilani Stevens, met the teen when she accompanied her mother to the pizza restaurant in Morro Bay where he worked.

The couple was inseparable for about six months, she said, but had recently broken up just before Stevens moved back to Northern California. She described Jackson as a smart, sweet and funny guy, who celebrated his 18th birthday in April.

“At 17, he wasn’t partying and drinking and doing anything stupid,” she said. “He was working and keeping his money in order. While driving he never looked at his phone, he was always just the safest driver ever.”

Stevens said Jackson Garland planned to work through the summer and then attend Cuesta College. He talked about studying psychology and joining the Peace Corps after college.

“He would say, ‘I want to join the Peace Corps, I want to travel around the world, and I want to make a difference in people’s lives,’” Stevens said.

Jackson Garland is also survived by his mother, Julie; brother, Jimmy Garland, 30, and his wife, Courtney; sister Jeanna Garland-Parsons, 29, and her husband, Scott; brother Johnnie Garland, 27, his wife, Lauren, and their children, Lydia and Ben.

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