Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Meth Addict Gets 19 Years In Fiesta Island Crash

Theresa Owens, 49, at her arraignment on Aug. 15, 2014.
Theresa Owens, 49, at her arraignment on Aug. 15, 2014.

Theresa Lynn Owens plowed into a group of cyclists, critically injuring one

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 on 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.

In her closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Jessica Coto told jurors that Owens made a choice on Aug. 12, 2014, to use meth and get behind the wheel of a car.

About 6:30 p.m. that day, Owens' car slammed into a group of 25 cyclists. Ten cyclists were injured, including Vinolo, who is now in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the chest down.

After the accident, 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, the prosecutor said.

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.

Defense attorney Brian 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 sentencing the defendant, Judge Eugenia Eyherabide said, "On that day, you were just thinking of you."