77-year-old Santa Rosa woman sentenced to prison for DUI pedestrian death

SANTA ROSA (BCN) — A 77-year-old Santa Rosa woman with two previous DUI convictions was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison this morning for killing a woman and injuring another while driving under the influence of alcohol and prescription medication in January.

Gayle Gray struck pedestrians Jackie Simon, 85, and Josephine Ross, 91, with her 1994 Lexus sedan near a market in Oakmont on Jan. 20. Simon died at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and Ross was hospitalized for five days.

“It was the most horrible day in my life,” Ross told Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite.

Ross and several members of the two victims’ families asked the judge for a state prison sentence. Deputy District Attorney Tashawn Sanders argued for an eight-year prison term, while Gray’s attorney Stephen Gallenson asked for a lower term to be served in county jail.

Sanders said Gray made a conscious choice to drive to the Oakmont Village Market while on medication and after drinking wine, and said Gray’s dog in the front seat also was a distraction.

Gray had prior misdemeanor DUI convictions in 2003 and 1994.

Gallenson said Gray should not have been driving, but he called the collision with the two women who were walking on a sidewalk “an accident.”

Gallenson said Gray’s 0.052 percent blood-alcohol level three hours after the collision “a low level.”

Thistlethwaite and Sanders said the blood-alcohol level was likely higher at the time of the collision.

The judge also told Gray she made a conscious decision to drive while impaired, and told her she would face a murder charge if she kills someone while driving under the influence again.

Thistlethwaite ordered Gray to pay more than $300,000 in restitution to the surviving victim and both women’s families.

Gray faced a maximum nine-year state prison term, Sanders said.

She pleaded no contest in May to vehicular manslaughter and DUI with enhancements that include causing great bodily injury or death, great bodily injury to an elder victim and DUI involving multiple victims.

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