The Star-News


Driver gets prison in woman's death

Fri, Apr 09 2010 04:01 PM Posted By: Neal Putnam

Saying he "cannot in good conscience grant probation," a judge on Tuesday sentenced a motorist to four years in state prison for driving between 83-95 mph and killing a Chula Vista mother on a highway.

A jury found that excessive speed by Melvin Leroy Pearles, 49, caused the death of Alexandria McKiernan-Drake, 25, who was killed last year on State Route 67 in East County.

El Cajon Superior Court Judge Peter Deddeh denied Pearles'  attorney's  bid for probation and gave Pearles credit for 117 days already spent in jail.

Pearles, of Ranchita, had been free on $50,000 bond, but was handcuffed and taken into custody immediately after the sentencing. He was fined $1,014, and Deddeh said he would take up restitution at a later hearing if the victim's family requests it. 

Jay Drake, the victim's husband who works for a Home Depot store in  Chula Vista, wept as he read a statement of how "March 29, 2009, was the day that would change my life forever.

"I feel alone, sad and depressed. Most days I manage... I still  can't watch certain movies without falling apart," Drake said. "Alexandria came out of  the blue to me. She completed me. "She was my best friend. In losing Alex, I didn't just a lose a wife," he said. 

An attorney for the victimÕs parents, Vincent Bartolotta Jr., told reporters he will be filing a wrongful death suit against the state of California for the road conditions of Route 67. He said there have been 900 accidents on the section of Route 67 between Ramona and El Cajon and the state has failed 
to make it safer.

Dawn Beebee, Pearles' attorney, said a white BMW had been driving too  fast behind Pearles and her client "felt he was being chased up the highway" by that driver.

That alleged driver was never found. She said the BMW was "road raging him," and said Pearles was "certainly  not racing" with him.

Beebee also faulted the road conditions of State Route 67 where two  eastbound lanes merge into one. She said Pearles suffered nine broken  ribs, a broken clavicle and other injuries. Pearles told a California Highway Patrol officer he drove so fast because "I had to pee."

Pearles wiped his eyes with tissues and softly cried during the sentencing.  He has no prior record. 


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