Driver Charged in Deaths of Three Women in Anaheim

The driver is suspected of having been drunk at the time of the fatal crash

By Vikki Vargas and Julie Brayton
|  Thursday, Feb 14, 2013  |  Updated 12:05 AM PDT
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Anthony Lewis Sanchez was arraigned Wednesday. He's been charged with three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter. Authorities say he crashed into them at a high rate of speed on Saturday as they walked home from a baby shower. Vikki Vargas reports from Anaheim for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Feb. 13, 2013.

Vikki Vargas, Kevin Dahlgren

Anthony Lewis Sanchez was arraigned Wednesday. He's been charged with three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter. Authorities say he crashed into them at a high rate of speed on Saturday as they walked home from a baby shower. Vikki Vargas reports from Anaheim for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Feb. 13, 2013.

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Prosecutors said that Anthony Lewis Sanchez was driving well above the 40-mph speed limit Saturday night in Anaheim when he allegedly crashed into three women crossing the street, killing them as they walked home from a baby shower.

Accused of driving under the influence, Sanchez was arraigned on Wednesday.

He's been charged with three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter causing death with gross negligence while intoxicated, one felony count of driving under the influence causing bodily injury, one felony count of driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more causing bodily injury, plus sentencing enhancements and allegations, according to a news release from the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Sanchez was driving a Honda Civic when police said he struck the three women walking across South Western Avenue. All three had been at a baby shower.

Carmen and Sheyla Mendoza were walking home that night. Their cousin Stephanie Henriquez was walking with them. Now they are remembered by a sidewalk memorial, which is covered with candles and flowers and notes that urge readers not to drink and drive.

Witnesses tell authorities the area is well-lit and that Sanchez should have seen the women, even in the dark.

"The defendant's accused of crashing into these three victims, and he didn't stop," said OCDA spokeswoman Farrah Emami. "He barely hit his brakes, and he barely slowed down at all."

There isn't a crosswalk at Western and Del Monte, but prosecutors said that doesn't matter.

"Pedestrians can cross through intersections, in marked or unmarked crosswalks," Emami said. "The responsibility is on the driver not to collide with pedestrians."

Court documents show that Sanchez pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell in 1997 and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Four years later, he violated his probation and spent 16 months in state prison. Then in 2006 he agreed to attend a drug diversion program and that case was dismissed.

In court on Wednesday, his attorney argued the cases are old and should not be a factor in deciding his bail, which was lowered to $300,000.

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