Huffing gets man sent to prison in death of girl

South County Courthouse

A judge sentenced a Chula Vista man on Monday to 16 years in state prison for killing a 9-year-old girl while under the influence of computer keyboard cleaner he inhaled from a compressed air can.

Deputy District Attorney Chris Lawson said the case against Romeo Balbin Dumlao, 34, was the first DUI case in the county that involved the practice of “huffing.”

Dumlao pleaded guilty June 10 to gross vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of a drug in the death of Ashley Heffington.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Eugenia Eyherabide denied probation and fined him $2,214. A restitution hearing was set for Sept. 13. He was given credits of 83 days in jail.

Ashley Heffington was killed as a result of a Dec. 31, 2009, collision around 9 a.m. when Dumlao’s vehicle struck the car in which the girl was a passenger.

Her mother, Cindy Heffington, was stopped at a light at Sports Arena Boulevard and West Point Loma Boulevard when Dumlao’s Toyota struck them.

The mother and another passenger were injured.

Dumlao also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of a drug and causing injuries.

Eyherabide imposed 10 years for the girl’s death and added two three-year terms consecutively for the injuries to the mother and her passenger.

“It was an accident that was not supposed to happen. I ask forgiveness from the family” said Dumlao. “If God can forgive me, maybe the family will forgive me.”

“I will never forgive you,” Cindy Heffington said.

“That is not something you can ever forgive… I don’t know if I’ll ever recover from this,” she said.

“When people are impaired from alcohol or drugs, they know exactly what they are doing. They know they have a chance of killing someone,” Heffington said after the sentencing. “It’s not an accident.”

The mother said she had to make the hard decision of turning off life support for her daughter about 12 days later because she was declared brain dead.

The defendant’s father, Romeo Dumlao Sr., apologized to Heffington saying his family “is deeply sorry from the bottom of our hearts.”

He told the mother her daughter was in heaven.

Cindy Heffington praised the “supportive environment” she received from the District Attorney’s Office as the case progressed.