Prosecutors have filed murder charges against a 17-year-old girl suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana in a high-speed crash that killed a woman and her daughter a year ago in Modesto.
Britaney Elvira Gomez faces two counts of murder in the connection with the deaths of Sherri Cooley, 54, and Megan Cooley, 21, according to a criminal complaint filed Oct. 31 in Stanislaus Superior Court.
Gomez remains in custody at Stanislaus County Juvenile Hall, where she has been held since she was treated for her injuries at a local hospital and handed over to authorities.
The court until last month had been trying to determine whether Gomez — who was 16 at the time of the crash — could be prosecuted as an adult. Proposition 57, a ballot measure approved by California voters in November 2016, shifted to the court the authority to decide if a minor could be prosecuted as an adult.
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Josh Cooley, Sherri’s son and Megan’s brother, said he was informed that Gomez’s case had now been transferred to adult court.
“This has all been a huge roller coaster of emotions,” he said during a phone interview Thursday.
At a Nov. 1 arraignment hearing, Gomez pleaded not guilty to the charges, which also include two counts of vehicular manslaughter in the deaths of the mother and daughter from Modesto.
Gomez is scheduled to return to court Dec. 11 for a pretrial hearing. The court at some point will schedule a preliminary hearing to determine whether there’s enough evidence for Gomez to stand trial.
Jak Sodhi, Gomez’s attorney, said his client feels horrible about the crash.
“No one is winning here,” Sodhi said in a phone interview Monday. “It’s an absolute tragic situation, particularly for the victims, their families and all parties involved.”
The defense attorney said his client does not have any DUI convictions or any other criminal convictions.
When a defendant is convicted of a DUI charge, the judge will admonish the defendant with a warning that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can lead to someone’s death. It will be up to the prosecution to demonstrate in court that Gomez knew her alleged criminal behavior was dangerous and could end in death.
Gomez also faces a charge of driving under the influence of a drug causing injury. Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll last year told The Modesto Bee that the girl is suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana.
The DUI charge includes enhancements for allegedly causing great bodily injury upon Julian Ramirez and Hayden Inacio in the crash, according to the criminal complaint.
Authorities have said Gomez was driving a 2006 Mercedes Benz sedan with two passengers, her 14-year-old brother and a 16-year-old boy. The boys also were taken by ambulance to a local hospital for treatment. Because they were minors, the names of the three teenagers had not been released by authorities until the criminal complaint was filed last week.
The deadly crash was reported about 8:20 p.m. Nov. 29 at the intersection of Tully and Rumble roads near Davis High School in north Modesto.
Sherri and Megan Cooley lived nearby and had just left their home to run errands when the crash occurred. Megan Cooley was working and attending junior college. She lived with her parents.
Modesto police officials have said that the teenage girl was driving the Mercedes sedan north on Tully and speeding. Megan Cooley was driving a 2003 Ford Escape south on Tully and was turning left to head east on Rumble, when the Mercedes struck the Ford’s passenger side.
The Ford rolled over and came to rest about 170 feet north of the intersection, according to the initial police investigation. Authorities worked for some time to free the mother and daughter, who were trapped inside their vehicle.
The mother was pronounced dead at the scene; her daughter was rushed to a local hospital where she died from her injuries.