Crime

Driver in fatal Santa Margarita crash pleads not guilty to manslaughter

Denise Fox was killed April 30, 2016, in a head-on collision near Santa Margarita. Here, Fox is pictured with her nieces in an undated photo.
Denise Fox was killed April 30, 2016, in a head-on collision near Santa Margarita. Here, Fox is pictured with her nieces in an undated photo. Courtesy photo

Jessica Lea Allred, the driver suspected of being under the influence when she allegedly caused a head-on collision in April that killed Santa Margarita resident Denise Fox, pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter charges Wednesday.

On April 30, Allred, 23, of San Luis Obispo, was driving a 1999 Saturn west on Highway 58, east of J Street, when she allegedly drove across the solid double yellow line and collided into a 1996 Toyota driven by Fox, the CHP said at the time.

Fox, 56, who was returning from her job as a life enrichment specialist at Sydney Creek in San Luis Obispo, suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Allred suffered a broken right leg and two broken ankles. She was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI after her discharge from the hospital.

The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office on Aug. 3 filed felony DUI and gross vehicular manslaughter charges against Allred, with an enhancement for allegedly driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or higher. The legal limit is 0.08.

Angela Carr, whose mother, Denise Fox, was killed in a car crash April 30, 2016, explains the photos, letters and notes that help her to remember her mother.

On Wednesday morning, she pleaded not guilty to all three counts. During the hearing, Superior Court Judge Dodie Harman granted a defense motion to allow Allred to stay out of custody in lieu of submitting to chemical testing and attending alcohol counseling. She is scheduled to appear in court again Sept. 21.

Following the hearing, Patrick Fisher, Allred’s attorney, called the case “horribly sad from all angles.”

“But there’s still a lot of work we need to do and a lot of questions,” Fisher said. “We’re working hard to investigate and to get those questions answered.”

Last week, attorneys for Fox’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Allred, alleging she was negligent when she caused the crash. It seeks unspecified damages.

As of Wednesday, Allred had not filed a response to the civil complaint. A hearing for that case has been scheduled for Dec. 19 in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

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