IRVINE – Despite the well-publicized roving DUI patrols and other law enforcement tools to keep drunk drivers off the streets during this past Memorial Day weekend, a 14-year-old Irvine girl is dead after being caught in the path of an alleged drunk driver.
Austin Jeffrey Farley, 26, of Irvine reportedly ran a red light in his Toyota pickup truck about 1:15 Sunday morning at the intersection of Culver Drive and Irvine Boulevard, before broadsiding a late model Mercedes Benz, according to an Irvine police report.
The Mercedes was being driven by a father who, along with his daughter, was escorting three of the daughter’s friends home after celebrating her birthday earlier in the evening.
While neither Farley nor his passenger in the truck was injured, officers arrived on the scene to find the 48 year-old father and his four female teenage passengers with injuries ranging from moderate to very serious.
One of those passengers, Ashton Sweet, a 14-year-old cheerleader and student at Irvine’s Northwood High School, succumbed to her injuries and passed away Tuesday afternoon. Though she had suffered brain trauma that physicians deemed irreversible in the hours after the collision, Sweet’s parents kept her on a breathing machine to allow for organ donation.
As the investigation progressed, police were unable to give any details on Farley’s blood alcohol content, his passenger or where they may have been before the crash.
“The investigation is ongoing and those investigative details are not available … at this point,” said Lt. Julia Engen via email Tuesday.
However, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced new details Wednesday afternoon and revealed that charges had been filed against Farley, including “one felony count each of murder and driving under the influence of alcohol, causing injury with a sentencing enhancement for intentionally and personally inflicting and causing great bodily injury.”
A conviction on these charges would deal Farley a sentence of 20 years to life in state prison. He is currently being held on $1 million dollar bail.
The DA’s announcement also described Farley’s condition at the scene of the crash as being disoriented and unable to balance. He displayed slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and was “emitting a strong odor of alcohol.” His blood alcohol level was measured at 2.0, nearly two-and-a-half times the legal limit.
Farley’s past drinking and driving violations, coupled with his other run-ins with the law leading up to this DUI murder charge, were also noted by the DA’s office.
During a prior DUI conviction, the judge told Farley he could be prosecuted for murder if he killed someone while driving under the influence and that he’d “learned about the dangers of drinking and driving in alcohol awareness courses as a condition of his sentence.”
According to The Orange County Register, Farley has pled guilty 19 times in recent years for several different offenses. Along with misdemeanor drunken driving, Farley’s record also includes battery on a peace officer or emergency worker, contempt of court, refusing to take a chemical test while having a suspended license and other violent crimes.