Woman who drove into cyclists on Fiesta Island sentenced to 19 y - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Woman who drove into cyclists on Fiesta Island sentenced to 19 years behind bars

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A methamphetamine addict who drove the wrong way on Fiesta Island and plowed into a group of cyclists, critically injuring a lead 
rider, was sentenced Thursday to 19 years in prison.

Theresa Lynn Owens, 50, was convicted last month of felony driving under the influence of drugs and a misdemeanor charge of possession of meth. Jurors 
also found that Owens personally inflicted great bodily injury to Juan Carlos Vinolo, causing permanent paralysis, and inflicted great bodily injury to three 
others.

"That day, she changed many lives," prosecutor Jessica Coto said of the defendant. "The defendant sentenced Mr. Vinolo to life in a wheelchair."

Robert Bernhard, who suffered a serious knee injury and was knocked out in the crash, said Owens made choices that day to use drugs and get behind the wheel of a car.

"That day, you took something from all of us," Bernhard told the defendant.

Defense attorney Brian Schmidt told Judge Eugenia Eyherabide that Owens had significant mental health problems and has been diagnosed with bipolar 
disorder.

Schmidt said Owens had just broken up with her boyfriend and might have been going through a "psychotic delusion" when she drove the wrong way on 
Fiesta Island that day. He asked for a sentence of eight years in prison.

Schmidt said Owens -- who was chastised for not helping the victims after the crash -- was upset when it happened and immediately called 911.

"I'm not sure she could have done anything (for them)," the defense attorney said.

Owens told the judge that she prays for Vinolo all the time and is "thankful that everyone survived and no one died.

Coto told jurors that Owens made a choice on Aug. 12, 2014, to use meth and get behind the wheel of a car that slammed into a group of 25 cyclists 
about 6:30 p.m. Ten cyclists were injured, including Vinolo, who is paralyzed from the chest down.

After the crash, a couple of cyclists pulled Owens from her car and she was exhibiting signs of being under the influence of a controlled substance, 
including acting erratically and being uncooperative, Coto said.

Coto said Owens suspected her boyfriend of cheating on her with a younger woman. The day of the crash, the defendant told police she saw her 
boyfriend with the woman on the other side of Fiesta Island and was driving to cut him off, according to Coto.

The defendant admitted using meth earlier in the day, saying it was for back pain, according to the prosecutor.

Once at the hospital, Owens was sedated and a nurse found a bindle of meth in her vagina when she tried to insert a catheter, Coto said.

Schmidt told the jury that Owens was not impaired at the time of the crash. The defendant did have meth in her system at the time, but the level was 
not particularly high, he said, calling it more in the "therapeutic" range.

In court, Coto told the judge that Owens was convicted in 2006 for using her car to run down her then-boyfriend, who was not seriously hurt.

In 2002, Owens was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs, the prosecutor said.

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