Valley woman; Change of heart in DUI death sentencing

FRESNO, Calif.

A judge told Stephanie Soza last month that he was planning to sentence her to just over three years in prison for two counts of vehicular manslaughter.

Friday, when she was supposed to be sentenced, he said he'd changed his mind. Soza's time in court was set to end Friday and her time in prison set to begin. Zack Bardone and Josh Paramore died in her car last summer when she drove off Highway 180 and down a cliff near Kings Canyon National Park.

Officers say her blood alcohol content was .09.

About ten of their family members and friends came to see Soza sentenced, but left without closure.

"The family, they're the ones that are suffering," said Barry Gleeson of the Fresno Mother Against Drunk Driving chapter. "I'm sure they want to see that the law -- they get the maximum sentence, which she should get."

The maximum sentence for Soza would be about 12 years in prison. But she was set to receive a little more than three -- a sentence the victims' families found hard to accept.

So did the MADD folks, whose members have attended Soza's court hearings.

"It's amazing to think that it's just three-and-a-half years because it was a violent crime," Gleeson said. "I mean to say nobody forced her to take alcohol. She made a choice. She has free will. She chose to drink and the results were disastrous."

When the judge started to waver on the three-year sentence, Soza's attorney balked and the sentencing never happened. The decision was especially hard on Paramore's mother, who came from the East Coast hoping to see Stephanie Soza and hear her take responsibility.

She did get one wish fulfilled this week. She got to see the site where her son died, and the memorial built by friends of Zack's and Josh's using parts of Stephanie Soza's car. And a few feet away, she could see just how impactful the crash was. A piece of the car is still wedged into a tree along Highway 180.

She'll head home with images of her son's final journey, but without ever seeing the woman accused of causing his death. Soza is now due back in court in two weeks. She could choose to accept a longer sentence, or to have a trial in her case.

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