VISTA — A 34-year-old man accused in the death of a newborn baby relating to a drunk driving accident several days earlier will have to stand trial, a Superior Court judge ruled Aug. 27.
Daniel John Kendrella is charged with gross vehicular manslaughter and two counts of DUI with injury, as well as driving on a suspended license and being uninsured in connection with an accident that occurred around 6 p.m. Oct. 7, 2008, in Vista after attending a happy hour with co-workers.
Prosecutors allege Kendrella was traveling westbound on Buena Creek Road in his Honda Prelude when he lost control of his vehicle and crossed into the eastbound lane striking Jennifer Moorehead’s Dodge Stratus. At the time of the accident, Moorehead was in the later months of her pregnancy.
Moorehead testified doctors felt it was necessary to perform an emergency c-section immediately following the accident because of trauma the fetus suffered during the head-on collision with Kendrella.
“The injuries I sustained … I lost my son,” an emotional Moorehead said.
Moorehead’s son suffered placental complications due to blunt force injuries and had been on life support for four days before being taken off, Detective Patrick Holt of the California Highway Patrol said.
Additionally, Moorehead said she suffered a fractured heel, and bumps and bruises.
CHP Officer Keith Beckman testified he believed the accident was alcohol-related because of text messages he found on Kendrella’s phone sent to him by a co-worker, Kendrella crossing a double line on the highway and his past driving record, in which he has a prior DUI.
Prosecutors allege Kendrella had approximately a .09 to .10 blood alcohol level at the time of the incident.
Prior to the accident, Kendrella had several drinks at Castle Creek Country Club in Escondido, according court testimony.
Sara Salinas, a former co-worker who invited the defendant to the happy hour, said she believes Kendrella had two or three beers. She said the text messages she sent, which stated the defendant was going to go home and pass out and that he couldn’t handle his alcohol, were meant to be playful replies to his text messages. Salinas said they sent text messages back and forth from their respective cars as they made their way to Interstate 15.
Kendrella, who suffered injuries to his feet, has a 2006 misdemeanor DUI conviction out of San Diego County.
If convicted, he faces up to 13 years and eight months in prison, according to Deputy District Attorney Natalie Villaflor.