Woman Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for Deadly Freeway Crash

Prisoner with handcuffed arms behind back, another jail transfer, criminal

Photo: Getty Images

VAN NUYS (CNS) - A young Los Angeles woman who pleaded no contest to a drunken freeway crash in Sherman Oaks that left two people dead, including a 15-year-old boy, was sentenced today to six years in state prison.

Bianca Lopez -- who was 20 at the time of the collision last April 24 that killed 15-year-old Julio Bautista and 50-year-old Felix Hernandez Pena of the Santa Maria area -- agreed to waive nearly a year of credit for the time she has spent behind bars.

Under a plea deal with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, Lopez pleaded no contest Jan. 19 to two felony counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Some of the victims' family members told Superior Court Judge Eric Harmon that they didn't think the sentence was long enough.

Deputy District Attorney Ranna Jananshahi told Harmon a California Highway Patrol captain was ``also not in agreement with the offer made by my office,'' and that two others who survived the crash but weren't in court had also expressed disappointment in the sentence.

Salvador Martinez, who was driving the Isuzu box truck that was rear- ended by Lopez's 2008 Honda Fit, said Lopez was being ``given very little time'' for the crash that injured him and killed the stepson he considered a son.

In a letter read in court by the Spanish-language interpreter, the boy's mother said, ``There is no comfort for my pain ... I am empty inside.''

Pena's widow said she lost her husband and companion of 32 years because of an ``irresponsible individual who felt she owned the road'' and drank alcohol.

Two of Pena's young grandsons also spoke in court, with both directly addressing Lopez and saying that they were ``sad for what you did'' to their grandfather.

Harmon said he thought it was important for Lopez to hear ``how heartbreaking and awful this all is,'' and said he hoped the passage of time will in some way help them to heal.

``This is (a) tragic, awful, heartbreaking situation,'' Harmon said just before imposing the sentence.

Harmon said he understood that many of those in court felt the sentence was ``too low and inadequate,'' and said he also had reservations but was ``left with very few options.''

Harmon -- who ordered Lopez's driver's license to be revoked for 10 years -- warned her that she could be charged with murder if she drives under the influence again and someone else is killed.

In a statement released shortly after the crash, the CHP said Lopez was driving east of Van Nuys Boulevard when she rear-ended the Isuzu box truck at about 12:10 a.m. that day, with the impact causing both vehicles to careen toward the center divider wall.

The truck was forced into the westbound lanes of the freeway, where it was struck by a 2017 Honda containing two people that were injured.

Two other vehicles were struck by debris from the crash, according to CHP Investigator Nicholas Villamizar, who noted outside court that witnesses had described the woman's vehicle as weaving and traveling at a high rate of speed.

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control last month suspended the license of the Cinema Bar in Culver City for 20 days for furnishing alcohol to Lopez before the deadly crash.

``Preventing underage drinking and driving is a public safety priority,'' ABC Director Eric Hirata said in a statement last month announcing the suspension, which prohibited the bar from selling alcohol during the suspension period.

``ABC licensees must remain vigilant and check identifications carefully to prevent these tragedies from happening.''

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