A disabled Air Force veteran accused of having taken four depressants before causing a multi-car crash in University City that killed a 77-year-old man has been ordered to stand trial on charges of gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence.

Soranon Booppanon, 39, faces 15 years in prison if convicted.

San Diego downtown courthouse. Photo credit: sdcda.org

Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey said Booppanon was under the influence of Valium and three other prescription medications about 10:30 a.m. last Oct. 23 when she blew through a red light on westbound La Jolla Village Drive at Genesee and caused a chain-reaction crash that killed George Matteson of Pacific Beach.

An autopsy revealed the victim died from blunt impact injuries to the head and torso.

Matteson’s 74-year-old wife, Betty, received more than 10 broken bones and was seriously injured.

Harvey said Booppanon was going 68 mph and accelerating when she ran the light.

“She never should have been driving,” the prosecutor said outside court.

Defense attorney Cole Casey said Booppanon has numerous medical problems as a result of 13 years in the military, and was on her way to the Veteran’s Administration when the crash happened.

Casey said he was hopeful his client would be eligible for Veteran’s Court, a program designed to help military veterans get treatment after finding themselves in legal trouble.

Following today’s preliminary hearing, Judge Laura Alksne found that enough evidence was presented for Booppanon to stand trial June 2.

Booppanon must remain on home detention, leaving only for doctor’s appointments and court appearances, the judge ruled.

Casey said his client would continue to obey all court orders.    “She’s terrified,” Casey said of the defendant, who needs a walker to get around.

— City News Service

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