By John Clark
A former police officer in Newport Beach, California, was sentenced this week to nine years in prison after causing a fatal accident while under the influence of alcohol, according to a report from the San Jose Mercury News.
Sources say Katherine Ann Heinzel, a 51-year-old resident of Winchester, California, was convicted a few months ago for gross vehicular manslaughter after causing a fatal DUI accident in November 2011.
As is customary, however, Heinzel had to wait several weeks for her sentencing hearing, which finally happened this week and revealed that Heinzel would have to spend nearly a decade behind bars to pay for her actions.
The former police officer’s legal saga started on November 19, 2011, when Heinzel slammed her 2003 Nissan Altima into the back end of Davionne Kelly’s 1991 Toyota Camry while traveling 90 miles per hour on Interstate 15.
The wreck caused Kelly’s car to flip end-over-end down a 350-foot hill. Kelly, who was only 20 years old at the time of the accident, died shortly after the accident.
In addition to Kelly’s tragic death, two passengers in the fallen car were also injured. Sources say Kris Walker, 21, suffered relatively minor injuries, while his companion, Brian Morast, suffered broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and a severe brain injury.
Remarkably, Walker was able to escape the wreckage of Kelly’s car through a window and quickly climbed up the hill to seek help.
When he reached the road, Walker heroically pulled an injured Heinzel from her car, which had become engulfed in flames. Later, Walker and a passerby returned to Kelly’s car to hear the driver’s last words and to help the injured Morast.
The accident was also notable due to the nature of Heinzel’s former profession. From 1986 to 1994, the convicted drunk driver had served as a police officer. One of her primary duties was investigation traffic accidents, including drunk driving collisions, according to sources.
At the time of the tragic accident, during which her blood alcohol level was reportedly 0.14 percent, which is well above the legal California limit of 0.08 percent, Heinzel was working as a private investigator.
Heinzel requested a simple probationary sentence, but the judge denied her request. Before she was sentenced, Heinzel made an emotional apology to Kelly’s family.
According to sources, Heinzel said she was “so sorry for the lifetime of pain” she had caused the family, and emphasized that her “words of remorse” were completely “genuine.”