The plan was to drink with friends and then stay overnight at one of their homes.
But when the party ended, Lawrence Benny Walker III was told he could not spend the night, his lawyer said.
Instead of calling someone for a ride, he decided to drive home. That decision will cost him more than seven years in prison.
On his way home, the then 21-year-old Walker drove at high speeds and ran several red lights on Palm Avenue before plowing into a Honda at Ashlan Avenue in Fresno, the California Highway Patrol said. The collision killed Kelly Phetxoumphone, a mother of four.
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Walker ran from the scene, but was quickly apprehended. Dazed and intoxicated, he admitted to being involved in the fatal crash, court records say.
On Thursday, Walker, now 22, agreed to a prison term of seven years and eight months after pleading no contest in Fresno County Superior Court to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in the killing of Phetxoumphone, 23, of Fresno. He also pleaded no contest to drunken driving causing injury to Kojne Biana Her, who was driving the Honda, and to leaving the scene of a fatal collision.
Typically, those charges carry a penalty of up to 17 years in prison, said Fresno defense attorney Daniel Bacon, who represents Walker.
He decided to drive home and now he is paying the price.
Defense attorney Daniel Bacon
Judge John Gallagher said a prison sentence of seven years and eight months was appropriate because of Walker’s young age and his lack of a criminal history. The judge also noted that Walker has taken responsibility for his actions and has attended Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and received counseling without being ordered by the court.
Walker will be sentenced Sept. 22. Until then, Gallagher said Walker could remain free on $194,000 bail as long as he continues to take AA classes and receives counseling.
“He feels terrible about what happened,” Bacon said, noting that Walker knows he responsible for the death of Phetxoumphone. “He decided to drive home and now he is paying the price.”
The crash happened just after 2 a.m. March 27, 2016. Court records say Walker’s blood-alcohol was .269, or more than three times the legal limit of .08 to drive.
The fatal crash happened just after 2 a.m. March 27, 2016 in central Fresno.
The CHP said he was driving south on Palm Avenue when he ran a red light at Ashlan and hit the passenger side of the Honda. Her, 23, suffered serious injuries, the CHP said. Phetxoumphone died at the scene.
Court records say Walker, who suffered minor injuries, ran from the scene and tried to hide next to a fence at a nearby home. Officers found him crouching on the ground with his forehead touching the ground. Because he was highly intoxicated and had slurred speech, Walker could not give a statement about what happened, but admitted to being in the crash, the court records say.
Since the fatal crash, Walker has not driven a car or drunk alcohol, Bacon told the judge on Thursday. He also wears a bracelet that monitors whether he drinks alcohol.
Walker lives with his parents, who take him to AA meetings and counseling, Bacon said. In addition, his parents drive him to his job as a volunteer at the Community Food Bank.
Walker told Gallagher that he understood the consequences of his plea. Gallagher then warned him that if he ever drinks and drives again, and ends up killing someone, he could be charged with murder. Walker said he understood.