A 77-year-old Santa Rosa grandmother was sentenced Tuesday to more than seven years in prison for driving under a combination of alcohol and prescription medication, killing one Oakmont woman and injuring a second.
Gayle Gray, who had two previous drunken driving convictions, was sentenced for her role in the death of Jackie Simon, 85, and serious injury to Josephine Ross, 91.
The two women were struck by Gray’s car outside an Oakmont market on Jan. 20. Gray told police she mistakenly stepped on the accelerator rather than brake as she pulled out of a parking lot.
“You ran over two people who were walking on the sidewalk. I don’t know if it could get much worse,” said Sonoma County Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite, who denied probation and sentenced the defendant to seven years and four months in prison.
“It kills and injures someone. There has to be consequences,” Thistlethwaite said of Gray’s third drunk driving conviction. “It does send a message to society. It’s something I consider as a judge.”
Gray, who had been out on bail after initially being held two days in jail, was immediately handcuffed and taken into custody.
With good behavior, she could be out of prison after serving 85 percent of her sentence, or slightly more than six years.
She also was ordered to pay more than $300,000 in restitution, mainly for the medical bills incurred by Ross.
Gray, dressed in a black pant suit, did not address the court. She smiled briefly at her son, daughter and two other relatives just before court got underway Tuesday.
Gray’s attorney, Steve Gallenson, argued against a prison term describing it as “probably a death sentence” for the retired real estate agent, given her advanced age and health. He said his client has been remorseful from the beginning and there also were indications from a medical scan she may have suffered a stroke the day of the accident.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to send her to prison to protect the community,” he said, suggesting a local jail sentence with probation was more appropriate.
But Prosecutor Tashawn Sanders said Gray went through residential treatment after a previous DUI, which should have put her on notice of the consequences of drinking and driving.
She had two misdemeanor drunken driving convictions in 1994 and 2003, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
“She was well aware of the impact alcohol can have and the danger it can cause,” Sanders said.
She said Gray initially told police she had not had anything to drink that morning, but later said she had two glasses of wine before driving to the store about a mile and a half away to buy more wine.
“It’s not a mistake,” Sanders said. “It was a deadly choice.”
Simon and Ross, who lived in the Oakmont Gardens retirement community, were on a sidewalk outside nearby Oakmont Village Market when they were struck by Gray’s car. The impact threw the pair onto the hood of Gray’s 1994 Lexus and carried them up to 20 feet before they fell onto the asphalt.
Gray blamed the accident on a combination of prescribed medication she was taking and the wine she consumed. She said her Jack Russell Terrier, which was in the front seat, also jumped onto her lap and distracted her.