Trial begins for driver after guilty plea overturned - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Trial begins for driver after guilty plea overturned

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8/CNS) — Trial is underway for a man charged with driving high and causing a crash that killed a 9-year-old girl.   

A prosecutor told jurors Wednesday that the motorist was high on chemicals found in keyboard cleaner when he rear-ended a car in the Midway District, but a defense attorney denied his client was under the influence. 
 
Romeo Dumlao Jr., 41, pleaded guilty in June 2010 to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and was sentenced to 16 years in state prison for the January 2010 death of Ashley Heffington. But the conviction was overturned on appeal and sent back to Superior Court for trial. 
 
Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney said in her opening statement that Dumlao was going 50-60 mph when he plowed into the back of Cindy's Heffington's Toyota Camry about 9 a.m. as she waited at a red light near Sports Arena Boulevard and West Point Loma Boulevard. 
 
Her daughter suffered a severe brain injury and was on life support until she died 12 days later at Rady Children's Hospital. 
 
Cindy Heffington and several other people in cars in front of hers were injured in the chain-reaction crash, Rooney said. 
 
Dumlao's blood revealed high levels of difluorethane, a chemical found in aerosol cans of computer keyboard cleaner, the prosecutor said. 
 
Investigators found five such canisters in the defendant's SUV after the crash, Rooney said. 
 
Defense attorney Kerry Armstrong told the jury that Dumlao was not under the influence of difluorethane, or DFE, at the time of the collision. A prescription drug that Dumlao was taking at the time has the same side effects as DFE, the defense attorney said. 
 
The abuse of difluorethane, where people inhale the propellant to get high, is called "huffing," according to medical experts.

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