A 2012 case involving two drunken motorists who collided — killing one of them — and led to hundreds of messages on social media and an in-depth accident re-enactment a year later, ended Tuesday with the surviving motorist sentenced to 23 years in prison.
Martin William Juarez had pleaded no contest July 21 to gross vehicular manslaughter in exchange for the dismissal of other charges including second-degree murder. He faced a sentence of 15 years to life if found guilty of the murder charge.
His blood alcohol content was .24, three times the .08 legal limit for driving.
The case received considerable attention after friends of 18-year-old Breana Webb posted on social media regarding a party the night of the crash where Webb and other teens drank heavily. Webb’s blood alcohol content was .14.
The stretch of roadway where the crash occurred was shut down exactly a year later for a re-enactment conducted by accident reconstruction experts hired by Juarez attorney Bill Slocumb. The experts filmed the approach multiple times from both perspectives using vehicles identical to the ones in the crash.
Slocumb said at the time of the plea deal the case was a tough one because it involved two drunken drivers, one of whom was killed and the other who won’t be able to see his family outside of prison for many years.
Prosecutor Jim Simson has said the plea deal spares Webb’s family from the pain of sitting through a trial, and does away with the uncertainty of what a jury might decide.
Juarez, 35, made no comment Tuesday but at times shook his head as family and friends of Webb told the court the impact her death has had on their lives.
“Breana taught me how to truly love something more than myself,” said Les Webb, Breana’s father.
He said Breana was his first daughter, born when he was 19 years old, and she forced him to get his life in order. He and Breana’s mother, Alicia, separated, but he said Breana had “two great families that loved her very much.”
As she entered her teens she didn’t spend much time at home, Les Webb said. She kept quiet about her feelings as she tried to learn more about herself, and went through a difficult time as she tried to break off a relationship with a destructive boyfriend.
Les Webb said Breana came to live with him and her stepmother in Tehachapi for a while to get away from pressures she felt in Bakersfield. They talked more than they had in years, shared a lot of personal feelings and established a strong relationship.
But it didn’t last.
Breana wanted to return to Bakersfield to be with friends. Les Webb said they didn’t speak during the hour drive back to her birth mother’s home in Bakersfield.
He said he regrets not talking to her. It was the last time he saw her alive.
“I wanted to die just so I wouldn’t feel the incredible pain anymore,” Les Webb said of his reaction upon hearing of his daughter’s death.
Juarez drove a 2008 Toyota Scion south in the northbound lanes of Coffee Road, south of Brimhall Road, at 3:47 a.m. Oct. 29, 2012. He was in the No. 1 lane, while Breana’s northbound 2009 Toyota Corolla was straddling the No. 1 and No. 2 lanes.
The vehicles collided, killing Breana and injuring her four passengers. Juarez had been traveling 55 mph, while Breana’s speed at impact was 16 mph.
Juarez got out of his vehicle and walked west from the crash site. He ignored the commands of police to stop and a sergeant took him to the ground to detain him.
One of Breana’s passengers that morning, Jason Guthrie, described her in court as a “fun-loving girl” who always had a smile on her face. He said he suffered nerve damage in his left leg as a result of the crash, and has experienced post-traumatic stress.
Guthrie afterward called the justice system “a joke” on his Facebook page and cursed the family of Juarez.
“Lol how the (expletive deleted) do they expect to deter people from drinking and driving when people selling pot get longer sentenced (sic),” Guthrie wrote in some of his comments.
Justin Shields, another passenger in Breana’s car, suffered fractured ribs and a lacerated kidney. He told the court Breana had no time to react before they were hit by Juarez’s vehicle.
Shields said he remembers screaming at the top of his lungs and watching Juarez run from the scene. He said he held Guthrie’s hand and the two of them kept saying Breana’s name over and over.
“She had so much potential,” Shields said. “And now it’s gone.”
Judge Colette M. Humphrey during sentencing ordered Juarez to pay restitution in amounts to be determined to the family of Breana and to the four passengers in her car.
Juarez’s wife, Janey Juarez, said out of court her husband is not the monster people have made him out to be. She said he’s a caring father who made a mistake, one that Breana Webb also made.
Janey Juarez, 39, said the prison sentence means their eight children will grow up without a father.
“We didn’t lose him to death, we lost him to prison,” she said.