The man accused of driving drunk and on drugs in a rollover crash that killed a 12-year-old girl north of Cambria earlier this year was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison.
San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy sentenced Jason Halvorson, 25, of Gorda to six years in prison for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causing injury and for inflicting grave bodily injury. Each felony carried three-year terms.
Blood tests showed Halvorson was under the influence of methamphetamine and alcohol the night of the Jan. 20 crash that killed Cessair Zadurski, according to a search warrant.
The crash happened near the Piedras Blancas lighthouse shortly after 10:15 p.m. on Highway 1 as Halvorson drove south.
Zadurski was sleeping in the back seat of the white Pontiac Grand Prix and was not wearing a seat belt while her mother, River Marcum, rode in the front seat, according to the search warrant. Marcum was not injured.
Halvorson told police he was driving the speed limit but hit a bump and lost control of the car. It careened across the northbound lane, tore through a barbed-wire fence, veered into a field and overturned at least twice.
Zadurski— who also lived in Gorda along the southern Monterey County coast — was thrown from the car, and emergency workers said it appeared the car rolled over her.
Halvorson showed no emotion while his sentence was read and did not say anything to the court before the pronouncement.
Duffy said he hoped Halvorson would take advantage of substance-and drug-abuse help. “If you use drugs or if you kill someone again, that would be second-degree murder, which would carry a life sentence.” The gravity of Halvorson’s punishment resonated with dozens of people along the Big Sur coast where Zadurski grew up. Many of her former teachers said they’ve also taken steps to educate kids about the dangers of driving under the influence.
January’s crash left communities continuing to grieve over her tragic death.
Wednesday’s sentencing brought back memories of the girl to former teachers who knew Zadurski while she lived in Gorda.
“I don’t know sentencing, but I trust that they have done that fairly,” said Lisa Gering, an office aide at Pacific Valley School just north of Gorda, where Zadurski attended school. “But there is nothing that’s going to bring her back.” Gering echoed Duffy’s advice at Wednesday’s sentencing. “The only good that can come out of this is if he gets his life straight,” she said.
Students at Pacific Valley continue to mourn the loss of their friend, Gering added.
Gering said she still notices students crying, saying they miss Zadurski.
Talking about it in groups helps, Gering said. Sometimes she’ll take classes outside and have them sit in a circle.
“It doesn’t go away quickly,” she said. “We were all pretty taken aback by that.”