Crime

Woman takes plea deal for testimony in Cayucos crash that killed teen, 2-year-old

Emergency personnel take an injured person to a helicopter to be transported to the hospital after a rollover accident on Highway 1 north of Cayucos on Saturday afternoon.
Emergency personnel take an injured person to a helicopter to be transported to the hospital after a rollover accident on Highway 1 north of Cayucos on Saturday afternoon. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

A woman facing charges as a passenger in a 2014 rollover crash in Cayucos that killed her teenage brother and 2-year-old nephew has pleaded no contest to a reduced charge in exchange for testifying against the suspected DUI driver.

Wendi Brito Gallardo, 21, pleaded no contest Tuesday, Jan. 10, to a misdemeanor charge of willfully causing harm to a child resulting in great bodily injury. Prosecutors had originally charged her with a felony, but reduced it on condition of her plea and her cooperation as a witness in the upcoming trial of driver Tanner Mengore.

Brito Gallardo is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 7. Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham said Friday that her conviction carries a maximum sentence of a year in San Luis Obispo County Jail. However, prosecutors have agreed to limit her jail sentence to 90 days in exchange for her testimony, Cunningham said.

Brito Gallardo was allegedly babysitting 22-month-old Mason Simmons-Gibson when she and the toddler, along with her brothers Michael and Simon Brito, and Mengore were traveling in an SUV south on Highway 1 near Cayucos. Mengore allegedly lost control of the vehicle, hit an embankment and sent the vehicle airborne before rolling several times.

Three of the passengers were thrown from the vehicle, including the toddler and Simon Brito, 17, who were killed. Michael Brito, then 23, and Brito Gallardo suffered major injuries. Mengore, the only person wearing a seat belt, suffered minor injuries.

According to investigators, the group had just returned from a Cambria smoke shop where they allegedly bought synthetic marijuana — known commonly as “spice.” Prosecutors allege Mengore, then 23, smoked the drug before getting behind the wheel.

The family of Simmons-Gibson has since filed a lawsuit against Paradise Smoke Shop in Cambria, which is ongoing.

Mengore is facing two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence of a drug causing injury, and child abuse. He has pleaded not guilty and is tentatively scheduled for trial next month.

Michael Brito was killed Oct. 6, 2015, three weeks shy of the one-year anniversary of the Cayucos crash, when he was hit by a car while crossing a street in Los Osos.

Matt Fountain: 805-781-7909, @MattFountain1

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