A jury convicted a Chula Vista man Wednesday of gross vehicular manslaughter in the death of a 9-year-old girl in 2010 in a case involving “huffing” or inhaling chemicals from computer keyboard cleaner cans.
The jury also convicted Romeo Balbin Dumlao, 41, of driving under the influence of these chemicals from cans which were found in his car which killed Ashley Heffington at a stoplight at West Point Loma Boulevard and Sports Arena Boulevard.
The eight man, four woman jury deliberated one day in San Diego Superior Court before convicting him. The girl was critically injured Dec. 31, 2009, and taken off life support on Jan. 12, 2010 after doctors declared she was brain dead.
Dumlao’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, had argued there was no state-wide standard of measurement for diflouroethane, which is an odorless gas. He argued unsuccessfully his client was not under the influence.
Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney said Dumlao’s blood showed high levels of the chemical in his system and showed four cans to the jury which were found in his car. “These were used for huffing,” she said.
The jury also determined that the girl’s mother and three others injured in the collision did not suffer great bodily injuries. This means Dumlao can only be sentenced for gross vehicular manslaughter and not receive consecutive sentences for the other injuries.
Rooney said the maximum sentence is around 10 years and eight months in state prison. Judge Louis Hanoian set sentencing for March 3. Dumlao remains in jail without bail.
Armstrong said he considers the verdicts a win because the jury did not find the other victims suffered great bodily injuries. Thus he can’t receive consecutive sentencing enhancements.
Dumlao, who did not testify, “is very happy” with the outcome, said his attorney.
Dumlao pleaded guilty to the charges in 2010 and received 16 years in prison but got his guilty plea reversed while acting as his own attorney.