~In Memoriam of Wendy and Kimberly Sands~.............

Drunken driver who killed mother, girl pleads guilty

Second degree murder charges result in 15 years to life sentence

By GARY GEORGE/Staff Writer

VICTORVILLE — The drunken driver who killed a mother and daughter in a June 10, 2000, Hesperia accident has pleaded guilty to two counts of second degree murder and has been sentenced to 15 years to life on two counts running concurrently.

Jason Michael Dalby ran a stop sign at Deodar Street and Jacaranda Avenue at an estimated 94 mph and slammed into the side of a Ford Escort driven by 26-year-old Wendy Sands of Apple Valley. Sands and her 6-year-old daughter Kimberly, who were returning from a children's birthday party, were killed.

Dalby, now 29, had been convicted of drunken driving in 1998 and 1999. After the fatal crash, he was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.14 according to Deputy District Attorney for San Bernardino County Mike Risley.

Risley said if the case had gone to trial it would have been established by witness testimony that Dalby had drank 11 beers in three hours at his girlfriend's house.

Dalby's pre-trial was in the second day of jury selection and discussions between the prosecution and the defense were being held.

According to Risley, both sides had an interest in not going to trial. Though Risley felt he always had a strong case, he said part of his job is to eliminate "the risk of a hung jury, the jury finding for manslaughter rather than murder and the risk of having something happen to the case on an appeal."

"We didn't have to roll the dice and still put him behind bars and he'll probably never get out," Risley said.

Risley said it was non-negotiable that there had to be a plea acknowledging that Dalby murdered Wendy Sands and her daughter Kimberly.

Thursday, Dalby pleaded guilty to two counts of second degree murder. If Dalby had gone to trial he could have been sentenced to 30 years to life.

Dalby is eligible for a parole hearing in 12 years, though Risley said the odds of parole are slim.

Wendy Sands' mother, Sherry Hampton-Sands, went searching for her daughter and granddaughter that June day because they were late coming home. She found the scene of the accident but can't remember what she saw there that day.

Hampton-Sands voice broke as she said, "After 27 months, it's over, but it's not over. This is a no-win situation. I can't say to Kimberly, ‘You'll love the new Disney movie I'm going to take you to.' Or say to Wendy, who loved music, ‘You'll love this new CD.' "

She recalls her daughter had just graduated from college with honors. And she remembers little Kimberly getting ready for her last party, telling her "They're going to love my new Tweety Bird swim suit!"

Hampton-Sands expressed her appreciation for the hard work of Risley and Bob Johnson, the investigating officer, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving members who supported her, even going to court with her.

"I want people to understand that drinking and driving is dangerous. Every adult knows that. Drinker's have a mindset that ‘It will never happen to me,' " she said.

Hampton-Sands knows that it can happen to anybody.

Gary George can be reached at (760) 951-6277


   

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