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Accused drunk driver pleads not guilty in fatal crash

A woman who was behind the wheel during a deadly wrong-way accident makes her first court appearance Thursday.
Accused drunk driver pleads not guilty in fatal crash

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A woman who allegedly drove the wrong way while drunk on state Route 52, causing a head-on crash that killed the other driver, pleaded not guilty Thursday to a felony charge of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

April Thompson, 23, was ordered held on $250,000 bail. She faces up to 10 years in state prison if convicted.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon said Thompson was driving westbound in the eastbound lanes of state Route 52 around 1 a.m. last Saturday when she crashed her Chevrolet truck head-on into a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle driven by 25-year-old Jayme Alan Midlam. He died at the scene and Thompson was treated at a hospital for moderate injuries.

After the crash, Thompson started her truck again and tried to back out of the wreckage, but was unsuccessful, Runyon alleged. He said two witnesses pulled Thompson from the crumpled truck and she was heard saying "I just want to go home."

Two preliminary alcohol screening tests were measured at .217 and .196 percent, Runyon said. He said full blood-alcohol tests were pending.

Thompson told police that she had one glass of vodka about 4:30 p.m. the previous afternoon and was on her way from her home in National City to her boyfriend's home in El Cajon when the accident occurred.

"Suffice to say that an individual could not drink a standard glass of alcohol and reach the blood-alcohol level that the PAS device revealed that she was at," Runyon told reporters.

The prosecutor said that while Thompson's driver's license may have been suspended, she may not have received notification that was the case.

Deputy Public Defender Sal Tarantino unsuccessfully urged Judge David Szumowski to set bail at $50,000, saying Thompson had no criminal record and was not a risk to flee.

But the judge said that based on Runyon's representations, it appeared the defendant "had a lot more than a glass" of alcohol to drink the night of the crash.

Szumowski set a bail review for Tuesday and a readiness conference for Jan. 14.

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Jan. 16.

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