A Livermore woman with a history of impaired driving was sentenced during an emotional court hearing on Tuesday to 15 years to life in state prison for a violent DUI crash that killed two passengers along Stanley Boulevard on the night before Thanksgiving four years ago.
Lauren Davis, 30, was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder after accepting a plea deal on the eve of trial last month for the deaths of Village High School student Violet Campbell, 16, and Livermore resident Alexys Garcia, 25.
Authorities said Davis, who had two prior DUI cases pleaded out to reckless driving, was under the influence of marijuana and alcohol while driving Campbell, Garcia and two others in an SUV when she lost control and the vehicle overturned several times around 11:45 p.m. on Nov. 22, 2017. Campbell died at the scene; Garcia succumbed to her major injuries at a hospital days later.
"This case was as avoidable as it was tragic," deputy district attorney Matthew Gaidos said in a statement following the sentencing at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin.
Nearly a dozen family members of the victims, as well as one of the surviving passengers, spoke to Judge Michael Gaffey and the courtroom during the hearing Tuesday morning, which was livestreamed via audio-only on the Alameda County Superior Court website.
They remembered their loved ones killed in the crash, harshly criticized Davis for her actions that night and track record of impaired driving, and lamented the local criminal justice system that did not prohibit Davis from getting behind the wheel after her prior DUI arrests.
"My body physically hurts, thinking about what I went through that night … My girlfriend Violet smashed, the blood …" survivor Kyle Munoz said during his victim-impact statement. "All I want is justice for Violet."
Davis also addressed the court before Gaffey imposed the prison sentence, which was a term both sides agreed to as part of the defendant's plea agreement on Sept. 22.
"I wish I could trade places with them and bring them back. It tears me to pieces that I can't," Davis said Tuesday. "The pain and guilt that I feel every day can't be put into words."
Defense attorney Song Kim, through an Alameda County Public Defender's Office spokesman, declined to comment after the hearing.
"Every time local residents travel Stanley Boulevard from Livermore to Pleasanton and see the memorial on the side of the road, I hope that they, as I do, honor Lexy and Violet's lives by remembering and reminding those around them that driving under the influence is a dangerous and serious crime which has devastating impacts on families and serious consequences to those who choose to do so," said Gaidos, who prosecuted the case.
Davis, who was 26 at the time of the double-fatal crash, had been arrested two times before for suspicion of DUI.
She pleaded to marijuana-related reckless driving in a 2013 case, and six months before the Stanley Boulevard rollover she pleaded to alcohol-related reckless driving for a 2016 incident, prosecutors said. The latter's sentence required Davis to complete a 12-hour DUI education course as part of her probation.
Those experiences and potential lessons had little impact on Davis on Nov. 22, 2017, according to authorities and witnesses that night.
The night began at a bowling alley, where Davis smoked marijuana before going inside and consumed whiskey and beer at the alley. She also visited two bars that night, which included shots of whiskey in a parking lot, according to authorities.
"With a car full of people, witnesses say she drove through a red light. While on Stanley Boulevard, her car also struck the curb. A California Highway Patrol expert estimated her speed to be between 70 to 80 mph," prosecutors said after her plea deal.
Davis lost control of the 2004 Kia Sorento on westbound Stanley Boulevard just west of Highway 84/Isabel Avenue and the SUV veered off the roadway, flipped several times and landed north of the roadway.
Campbell, a junior at Pleasanton's Village High, was partially ejected from the back seat and died instantly, prosecutors said. Garcia was thrown fully out of the SUV and sustained massive head injuries; she died at the hospital days later.
Kyle Munoz, Campbell's boyfriend who was also in the SUV that night along with his brother Kevin, offered a particularly damning description of Davis' actions in the aftermath after the crash.
Kyle Munoz, now 22, said minorly hurt Davis asked the survivors to lie about whether alcohol was involved and refused to look for Garcia after she was ejected some distance from where the SUV came to rest, even telling CHP officers "there were only four of us in the car."
"The way you reacted at the scene … You have no remorse at all. You only care about yourself," Kyle Munoz said to Davis on Tuesday.
Judge Gaffey, who noted that his Department 701 courtroom was crowded for the hearing on Tuesday morning, said the court received dozens of letters from family and friends of Campbell and Garcia ahead of sentencing.
He called it the "biggest file that I've reviewed for sentencing in 15 years as a judge," later adding, "I've read your letters. They're very compelling."
Only the survivors and direct family members of the victims were allowed to speak to the judge during the hearing -- as were Davis and her father.
Often talking through tears or while choking up, some victims' families members used words like "selfish", "monster", "a danger", "coward" and "predator" while describing Davis.
Highlighting the gruesome severity of the crash, Kim Garcia told the court that her younger sister "Lexy" landed in a field near the train tracks, where she lay alone and badly injured before being found 20 minutes later "face hanging off, eye ripped out, clinging to life."
Kyle Munoz also described the toll that the crash has taken on his life, saying he experiences anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder any time he tries to get into a car now.
"This was not an accident. Lauren decided to drive drunk, and two young girls lost their lives," said Jim Painter, grandfather of Violet Campbell -- who lived with her grandparents.
Janelle Painter, whose letter was read aloud by a county victim witness advocate, spoke of her grief and her faith since her granddaughter's death. "My life as I know it is measured by that tragic day. Missing Violet is my daily M.O. … My heart is broken."
Michele Campbell, Violet's mother, recalled exchanging texts with her daughter from the bowling alley that night. "The conversation was longer than we normally had, as if the universe was giving us some extra time," she said.
Michele Campbell, like others from both decedents' families, lamented the fact Davis was even allowed to drive that night after her prior arrests for intoxicated driving. "Has the system failed us? Yes. Is Lauren to blame? Yes."
Garcia's father Toff Garcia called the decision to remove his daughter off life support "the absolute most difficult thing I've ever done in my life." He said he still can't drive on Stanley Boulevard to this day because it's too emotionally painful.
"Lexy's death has left me feeling like my insides were hollowed out, and colors let out of my life," Alexys' mother Kinga Garcia told the court. "There is a difference between a broken heart and a shattered heart."
Davis, after brief remarks from her father, also got emotional in comments to the court.
"There are no words to express how extremely sorry I am," she said. "I am so sorry from the bottom of my heart for making choices that made Violet and Alexys leave us all too soon."
Davis also vowed to remain committed to her sobriety and share her story with others to help them avoid making the same mistakes.
To conclude the nearly two-hour hearing, Gaffey imposed the agreed-upon sentence of 15 years to life in prison for each count of second-degree murder, to be served concurrently. The judge reserved restitution to a future hearing.
Davis, who received credit for 1,355 days of time served in county jail after her arrest, was remanded into the sheriff's custody for transfer to the state prison system.