An Arroyo Grande woman who struck and killed a bicyclist while driving under the influence near Nipomo in 2014 was sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison during an emotional hearing Wednesday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court. Before being sentenced, she told the family of the victim she would work the rest of her life to make amends for her crimes.
“There are no words for the pain that I’ve caused you. I think about it every day and in sleepless nights, too,” Michelle Yvonne Hart said amid sobs. “I’m so sorry for everything.”
Hart, 46, pleaded no contest earlier this month to second-degree murder and felony hit-and-run in the death of 48-year-old Arroyo Grande resident Glen Harley Fulton.
There are no words for the pain I’ve caused you. I think about it every day and in sleepless nights, too.
Michelle Yvonne Hart to the family of victim Glen Harley Fulton
Hart struck and killed Fulton with her Honda Accord as Fulton was riding a bicycle south on Los Berros Road, south of Pomeroy Road, near Nipomo on Oct. 1, 2014.
Fulton, who was wearing a helmet, suffered fatal head injuries after being thrown about 100 feet by the impact, the CHP has said. Fulton’s bike was found upside down against a chain-link fence beside the road.
Hart fled the scene but was later identified with the help of witnesses who followed her, according to court testimony. She had remained in San Luis Obispo County Jail since her arrest in lieu of $100,000 bail.
According to previous testimony, Hart was tested two hours after she hit Fulton and was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.06. Blood alcohol level drops about 0.02 percent per hour, an expert testified. In California, it’s illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher.
A CHP officer testified that Hart said she had smoked marijuana the night before, snorted a line of methamphetamine two days earlier and drank Mike’s Hard Lemonade that morning.
Court records show that Hart had a history of felony and misdemeanor drug- and alcohol-related convictions, including drunken driving convictions in 1989, 2007 and 2010, and convictions for possession of a controlled substance in 2007 and 2011. Before the crash, she was scheduled to begin a 90-day sentence in County Jail for a recent commercial burglary conviction.
Hart was wearing an ankle monitor at the time of the crash, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing in February 2015.
The fact that you tried to get away and that you were only thinking of yourself, it’s really hard to understand how somebody can do that.
Clint Fulton, brother of victim Glen Harley Fulton
In the courtroom Wednesday, Hart listened tearfully and shook her head in acknowledgment as Fulton’s brothers and sister-in-law spoke of the pain, anxiety and depression family members have endured since Fulton’s death.
Brett Fulton, addressing Hart, said the death of his brother has left him in an “empty hole of sadness.”
“It still seems not real to me,” Fulton said. “I think of calling him sometimes only to remember he is no longer on this earth.”
Noting that Hart fled the scene rather than trying to help his brother, he added: “For that, you will never receive any forgiveness from anybody in this family.”
Another brother, Clint Fulton, agreed.
“The fact that you tried to get away and that you were only thinking of yourself, it’s really hard to understand how somebody can do that,” he said.
You’ve shown through your actions that you have a path in front of you. What faces you in the future is now up to you.
San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy
After attempting to regain her composure, Hart apologized to the Fultons and told the family she would spend the rest of her life trying to redeem herself through Bible study and helping others deal with substance abuse issues.
“I prayed for Jesus to take my breath away from me, and it didn’t work,” she said. “Hopefully, I can lead as many people to Jesus as I can.”
In a rare courtroom moment, a visibly moved Judge Jacquelyn Duffy called the case a “terrible tragedy” for both the Fulton and Hart families.
A county Probation Department report submitted before the hearing stated that Hart, who is a married mother of four, suffered severe prolonged sexual, physical and mental abuse at the hands of her father, who served 13 years in prison for his crimes against her.
“You have clearly had a turbulent past,” Duffy said. “But I also know you let drugs and alcohol overtake your life, and now you’ve caused irreversible damage (to the Fulton family).”
Duffy also noted that, for the first time in her career on the bench, San Luis Obispo County Jail staffers submitted a letter in support of Hart, stating that she has participated is every self-help opportunity available to her and that she has “much to teach” other inmates.
“You’ve shown through your actions that you have a path in front of you,” Duffy said. “What faces you in the future is now up to you.”
Hart will be immediately turned over to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to begin serving her sentence at a yet-to-be-determined state prison.