SAN DIEGO (CNS / CBS 8) - A 21-year-old woman accused in a hit-and-run crash in Rancho Bernardo, in which she allegedly drove drunk and hit a decorated Marine from behind on his motorcycle, leaving him hospitalized on life support, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three felony charges.
Jessica Marie Bloom, who is being held on $100,000 bail, faces a maximum of nine years in prison if convicted, said Deputy District Attorney Matthew Williams.
Police said 34-year-old Gunnery Sgt. Dave Smith was eastbound on Bernardo Center Drive near West Bernardo Drive about 12:30 p.m. last Sunday, waiting at a red light, when he was hit from behind by a woman driving a Chevrolet TrailBlazer.
The collision launched the victim onto the hood of the mid-size SUV, then into the street, Williams said.
The prosecutor said Bloom got out of the vehicle and appeared to be upset, frantically asking witnesses, "Is he dead?" referring to the victim.
The defendant loaded her front bumper into her SUV and drove off, but witnesses followed her to her apartment a short distance away and called police, Williams said.
After her arrest, Bloom's blood-alcohol level was measured at .37 percent, more than four times the legal limit for driving, according to the prosecutor.
Defense attorney Peter Liss told Judge David Szumowski that Bloom left the crash scene because she wanted to tell her husband, who is also a Marine, what had happened.
"She has extreme remorse," Liss told the judge.
Outside court, Liss told reporters that the defendant -- who hails from a small town in Indiana -- was devastated by what happened.
"She made some pretty bad judgments the other day, and she understands that," the attorney said. "She feels terrible about the victim in this case and literally spends all of her time just hoping that he gets better."
Liss said Bloom -- who has been married for eight months -- might have been distraught and feeling alone because her husband was about to be deployed soon.
The victim's mother, Catherine Joiner, said she was astounded by the defendant's blood-alcohol level.
"It just kind of blew my mind," she said. "I don't even know how she could even stay conscious at that level."
Smith, a 17-year military veteran who was awarded a Bronze Star for valor, served four tour of duty overseas and survived being injured by a roadside bomb.
"It's unfair," said Smith's fiance, Vanessa Potts. "We've been through a lot this past couple years and he's been through a lot in his military career, surviving an IED explosion. How do you come home and get hurt doing something that you love? I mean, he genuinely loves riding. That day, the last message I got from him was how beautiful the day was, and how he wished he could ride all day."
"This is the most unbelievable nightmare," Potts' uncle, Greg Lane, told News 8. "Dave has been the rock for this family, for them. For him to be taken out like this, it just breaks my heart."
Lane also says his family has been touched by the community's support during this tragedy.
"The fact that the community has rallied... You have no idea how much strength that is giving them," Lane added. "I am just so grateful."
Bloom is charged with two counts of felony DUI causing injury and one count of felony hit-and-run causing a victim to be comatose. The defendant will be back in court Aug. 12 for a readiness conference and Aug. 16 for a preliminary hearing.
If you would like to help with a contribution to the Dave Smith foundation, you may make donations at any Wells Fargo bank - the account number is #1585376393.
Also El Cajon Harley-Davidson is having a fundraiser:
- SATURDAY AUGUST 6TH FROM APPROX 10:00-3:00PM
- FREE LUNCH AND DJ
- 621 El Cajon Blvd