Amy Marie St. John-Smith at her arraignment hearing in 2014. Photo courtesy of 10 News
Amy Marie St. John-Smith at her arraignment hearing in 2014. Photo courtesy of 10 News

A Phoenix woman who caused a drunken chain-reaction crash in Old Town that left a taxi driver dead pleaded guilty Monday to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI causing injury.

Amy Marie St. John-Smith, 44, is expected to be sentenced to 17 years and eight months in prison at a hearing Jan. 22.

The defendant pleaded guilty on the day her case was to go to trial. A murder charge was dismissed in exchange for her plea.

Deputy District Attorney Lucy Yturralde said at an earlier hearing that St. John-Smith had a blood-alcohol level of 0.27 percent — more than three times the legal limit — when she drove the wrong way on the Washington Street offramp, struck Anteneh Minassie’s cab on Interstate 5, then kept going.

Yturralde said Minassie — a married father of three — got out of his taxi and was hit by his own car when another motorist rear-ended it.

The victim was believed to be dead when other motorists ran over him, the prosecutor said.

According to evidence presented at a preliminary hearing, the defendant flew into San Diego on April 18, 2014, rented a car and checked into a motel.

St. John-Smith — who has a prior DUI conviction from Arizona — went drinking at a Midway area bar and strip club, leaving at 2 a.m, Yturralde said.

Two taxi drivers testified that they saw the defendant’s car crash into Minassie’s cab. One of the drivers followed the defendant to a downtown hotel, where she was arrested.

— City News Service