ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY PRESS RELEASE
Case # 14CF1047
Date: April 21, 2015
SANTA ANA – A driver was sentenced today to 11 years in state prison for driving under the influence of methamphetamine and killing a cyclist in a hit-and-run crash. Sommer Nicole Gonzales, 19, Tustin, pleaded guilty today to one felony count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated, one felony count of hit and run with death, one misdemeanor count of possession of a controlled substance, one misdemeanor count of use and under the influence of a controlled substance, one misdemeanor count of possession of a controlled substance paraphernalia, and a sentencing enhancement allegation for fleeing the scene of a vehicular manslaughter.
At approximately 6:55 a.m. on Feb. 2, 2014, Gonzales drove under the influence of methamphetamine in her Toyota Corolla sedan southbound on Santiago Canyon Road, in unincorporated Orange County near Loma Ridge Road, and veered into the bike lane. She struck 21-year-old Joseph Robinson, who was lawfully riding his bike within the marked bike lane. Gonzales fled the scene without stopping to render any assistance to the victim or reporting the accident. A witness, who was driving in the vicinity of the hit and run, saw substantial damage to Gonzales’ vehicle and called 911 to give a description of her car.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) deputies found the defendant and her vehicle approximately 45 minutes after the crash in a parking lot in Rancho Santa Margarita, where damage was observed to her car consistent with being involved in a serious collision. Gonzales displayed objective signs of being under the influence of a controlled substance and had methamphetamine and a pipe in her possession. The defendant later tested positive for methamphetamine in her blood.
The same witness that reported the defendant’s vehicle to police found Robinson severely injured by the side of the road. The victim suffered severe blunt force trauma and was pronounced dead at the scene.
At the sentencing today, several family members and friends of the victim delivered emotional impact statements to the court. The victim’s mother presented a video montage of the victim which was played in court and can be seen at this link: http://bit.ly/1OccRKX. She also talked about how happy her son used to be and that he recently got engaged and brought a lot of joy to the family and how every special event that happens now is bittersweet.
The victim’s father told the court about visiting the scene of the crime and imagining how his son spent his last moments alive on the side of the road. He went on to talk about the hole that’s left in the family that will never be filled and that the only consolation is how grateful he is to have memories of their time spent together.
The victim’s sister said in part, “My heart literally hurts when I think about my brother, I can’t think about him without crying. My drive to work takes me right past the accident site where his ghost bike is still hanging. Every morning and night as I pass that spot, I tell Joey aloud that I love him and cry.”
OCSD and the California Highway Patrol investigated this case. Deputy District Attorney Stephen Cornwell of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.
TONY RACKAUCKAS, District Attorney
Susan Kang Schroeder, Chief of Staff