Emotional evidence in repeat DUI murder case

August 15, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Prosecutors are taking aim at the woman who fell asleep in police custody just minutes after allegedly killing a 54-year-old man while driving drunk.

The deadly crash happened last October, but prosecutors say it wasn't the first for the DUI suspect. 25-year-old Perla Vazquez faces murder charges because she already had two drunk driving convictions. She's also charged with a fourth DUI, three months before the collision that killed Frank Winslow.

People convicted of DUIs are warned that if they drive drunk again and kill someone, it won't just be manslaughter, it'll be murder. So in this case, Vazquez should've heard that warning at least twice before.

Perla Vazquez sat silently next to her defense attorney Wednesday as prosecutors painted a picture of her as a serial drunk driver who eventually killed someone.

A Madera police officer was the first to notice something was wrong on Highway 168 as he drove past the Shaw Ave. exit and saw Vazquez's car.

"The driver's side window was down," said Madera police officer Jason Green. "There was a little bit of smoke coming out of the inside of the vehicle. There was also some front end damage."

CHP officers found 54-year-old Frank Winslow in his overturned Jeep in the culvert by the Shaw exit.

More than a dozen of his family and friends attended Vazquez's preliminary hearing and just the mention of Winslow brought tears to the eyes of many. Witnessing the collision itself was also emotional for one woman who got off on Shaw just before the crash. The investigator who interviewed her said she was in tears.

"She indicated to me that if they had stayed on the freeway, they would've been rear-ended and they would've been at the bottom of that culvert," said CHP officer Mike Trenholm.

Vazquez showed no emotion in court and when Action News caught up to her shortly after the crash, she was asleep in the back seat of a CHP officer's car.

Prosecutors say this was the second time in three months that Vazquez had hit a car while driving drunk. This is what Sarah Hutchinson's car looked like after Vazquez allegedly hit it in July. But Vazquez never stayed in jail despite the repeat DUI charges -- not until Frank Winslow died on October 11 -- on his way home from work -- just minutes from his house and his wife.

There's still one more day of testimony in the hearing before the judge decides whether there's enough evidence for Vazquez to stand trial. She faces life in prison if she's convicted this time.


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