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Woman sentenced to 10 years for fatal Rancho Bernardo DUI crash

RANCHO BERNARDO — A woman who drove drunk and crashed into another vehicle in Rancho Bernardo, killing the 71-year-old driver of the other car, was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years in state prison.

Freesia Vargas, 27, pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for crashing into John Atcheson’s car on Jan. 6, 2020. The 6:30 p.m. crash happened at the intersection of Meandro Drive and Rancho Bernardo Road, about a mile away from Atcheson’s home, according to his family members.

Shortly after the crash, police said Atcheson pulled out in front of a 2001 Toyota Tacoma that was headed east on Rancho Bernardo Road and was broadsided.

Vargas was later found to be at fault and was charged in September of 2020.

Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright said Vargas had a .15% blood alcohol level and was on probation for a prior misdemeanor DUI conviction at the time of the crash.

She was initially charged with second-degree murder and remained out of custody on $250,000 bail through most of the legal proceedings that followed.

During a trial held last year, jurors voted 7-5 in favor of acquitting her on the murder count. She later pleaded guilty to the gross vehicular manslaughter count and agreed to the 10-year prison term in exchange for dismissing the murder count.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Francis Devaney imposed the stipulated 10-year term and declined a request from Vargas’ defense attorney to have her receive credits for the time she spent out of custody while equipped with an alcohol-monitoring device. Vargas received credit for one day she spent in custody.

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