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North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorneys

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Murder Conviction for Fatal DWI Crash

One North Carolina man's decision to drive drunk has turned into a conviction for the second degree murder of his girlfriend.

Julian Gutierrez was drinking at a party on October 30, 2009. He left the party with his girlfriend, Francy Lorena Toro Reich, around 3:00 a.m. While driving south along I-85 near the Cox Road exit, his car went off the road and crashed into a tree. Although Gutierrez suffered injuries, Reich was pinned in the vehicle. She was unconscious and barely alive when first-responders arrived on the scene. Reich later died.

Gutierrez had a previous charge for driving while intoxicated in Statesville to which he pleaded guilty. He also had other traffic violations on his record.

His trial was filled with emotion as emergency workers testified about the mangled condition of the car after the crash. The jury was presented with photos of the wreck and rescue effort. The first-responders described prying Reich from the crumpled passenger side of the car, while a police officer testified that he observed the tire impressions from the crash and found no skid marks on the road.

The jury of three men and nine women convicted Gutierrez of second-degree murder, and he was sentenced to a minimum of ten years and a maximum of thirteen years in prison.

The Gaston County District Attorney stated that defendants in DWI crash cases cannot be charged with first degree murder. Some prosecutors seek a second-degree murder charge for defendants who have had multiple DWI arrests.

DWI penalties have been a hot topic lately, following a July drunk driving crash that resulted in the death of a Lowell teen.

Source: The Gaston Gazette "Fatal DWI wreck ends in murder conviction" 8/13/10

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