A Cayucos woman who plowed into two bicyclists, killing one, in a drunken-driving accident last month was sentenced Tuesday to 11 years and eight months in prison.
Jessica Whitney Goddard, 29, received the maximum sentence for two felonies — including gross vehicular manslaughter — mostly because she had previous convictions for driving under the influence, reckless driving and hit-and-run with a vehicle.
Goddard was driving to work about 11:30 a.m. Sept. 2 when her Hyundai hit the cyclists, Alan Stephens, 65, and Bradley Cummins, 60, both of Los Osos, as they rode on Highway 1 in Morro Bay. Stephens, who hit the car’s windshield and roof, died at the scene. Cummins suffered major injuries, including fractures to a femur, a lower vertebra, his pelvis, his sternum and his left forearm.
In court, a tearful Goddard watched as Stephens’ wife, Carol Ann Stephens, began to read a
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“I feel like I’m living someone else’s nightmare,” said Stephens, who eventually had someone else finish reading her statement because she was too choked up to continue. “This cannot be my life. It doesn’t make sense.”
According to a San Luis Obispo County Probation Department’s presentencing report, Goddard said she had blacked out from drinking alcohol “a handful of times” prior to the incident.
The day before the collision, she had visited friends in Southern California. After leaving Van Nuys by train at 3 p.m., she drove a scooter from the San Luis Obispo train station to her home about 8:30 p.m. After drinking a bloody mary on the train, she drank an additional five vodka tonics at home and went to bed about midnight, the report said.
The next morning, still feeling the effects of alcohol, she ate breakfast and then took a 4-mile run. While driving to work at Trader Joe’s in San Luis Obispo, she said she saw the two cyclists but didn’t remember driving onto the shoulder.
An hour after the incident, her blood alcohol level was just under the legal limit, though investigators believe it was likely over the limit when the crash occurred. She also had traces of cocaine in her system.
The two cyclists were preparing for a 100-mile charity bike run that takes place this weekend. Stephens and his wife would have celebrated their 10th anniversary the day after his death.
“I will never hear him say, ‘I love you,’ or how cute he thought I was,” she wrote in her victim impact statement.
Since the accident, she said, she hasn’t been able to visit places she frequented with her husband, has difficulty sleeping and can’t imagine life without her spouse — the one who could always make her laugh by doing or saying something silly.
“I don’t care about the future,” she said. “I want the past.”
Cummins was airlifted to a hospital in Stanford University Medical Center, said his sister, Brenda Fischer, where he was on life support for “three long, agonizing weeks.”
While medical staff saved his life, she said, his long-term prognosis is unknown.
“He is still unable to walk,” she said.
As a cyclist, Cummins rode more than 10,000 miles a year.
“Brad is a passionate cyclist and does not want to ride again out of fear,” his wife, Cindy Cummins, wrote in a statement read in court.
Goddard, who entered a guilty plea during her initial court appearance, tearfully apologized.
“I cry every day,” she said, facing the audience.
Her attorney, Guy Galambos, said his client made a horrible mistake that has had a profound impact on the friends and family of the two victims.
“She knows there’s nothing she can do to fix this problem,” he said, noting that she has begun attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and ministry services while in jail.
Deputy District Attorney Matt Kerrigan recommended the maximum sentence to send a message about the consequences of drunken driving.
Judge John Trice said Goddard’s record was “striking” and noted that her license was expired at the time of the incident. A one-time bartender with an associate degree, Goddard told probation officers that other members of her immediate family had DUI convictions as well.
Goddard, who will initially be sent to the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, will have to serve at least 85 percent of her sentence.
Outside the courtroom, many of the 50 people who arrived to support the wives of Stephens and Cummins gathered in the lobby, where Stephens offered one final word of caution about drunken driving.
“Look what happens when you don’t think and get in a car,” she said.