The woman who was accused of driving while intoxicated, causing a crash that killed four members of the same family last month, appeared in court Wednesday to face charges of murder among others.
Ashley Rene Williams, 28, pleaded not guilty to four counts of murder and four counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
Williams was arrested nearly a month after the nighttime crash on May 5 when she reportedly hit all four members of the family as they were walking on San Pasqual Valley Road returning to their home, which was about a minute's walk away, the Escondido Police Department said.
Williams' bail was set at $1 million.
The victims were identified as Carmela Camacho, 50, her partner Abel Valdez, 33, and Camacho's two grandchildren, 10-year-old Yovanny Felix and 11-year-old Emmanuel Rivas.
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According to Prosecutor Laurie Hauf, Williams was driving on a suspended license from a recent infraction for driving under the influence of some type of drug. She was distracted on a cell phone and had drugs in her system at the time, Hauf said.
"The defendant Ashley Williams killed four innocent human beings who were simply out in their afternoon walk around the neighborhood on a sidewalk," Hauf said.
Williams at one point during the court hearing, attempted to speak up, inaudibly interrupting the prosecutor. She remained silent the rest of her hearing.
The mother of the children and daughter to Camacho, Norma Espinoza, previously told NBC 7 the family takes the same walk nearly every evening but, this time, they never made it home.
"We are somewhat at peace, but nothing is going to bring them back," Espinoza said in regards to the arrest. "We're going to be fighting until the end and hope she gets for what she did. She murdered four family members that meant everything to me."
One of the witnesses, a lifeguard, tried to give Camacho CPR.
“I should have just gone to the other kid but the thing is, even when I talked to law enforcement, they said that it wouldn’t have made a difference because the other injuries were too big," Tiffany Shields told NBC 7.
William's was booked into the Vista Detention Facility.
The Escondido Police Department addressed the length of time it took to arrest the driver in the case with the following statement:
"This case has been a devastating event for our community. Investigators spent many hours putting together this case and we want the public to understand the following:
- All murder cases take time, energy, and a team of investigators to gather and process the evidence.
- Moreover, the nature of vehicle-related death investigations requires significant follow-up investigation including vehicle computer analysis, cell phone analysis, roadway computations, and lab tests.
- When arrests are made too quickly and without enough investigation, the DA’s office may not be able to prosecute the case because the case cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt."