Family says 9-year sentence for deadly wrong-way DWI isn’t harsh enough

Crime

AUSTIN (KXAN) – More than two years after a wrong-way crash that killed a 26-year-old San Antonio man, the woman charged in connection with his death, along with the death of her passenger, has accepted a plea agreement of nine years in prison.

As part of the plea deal, Michelle Orduna, 25, pleaded guilty to one count of intoxication manslaughter-even though she was originally charged with two counts-and will officially be sentenced on Feb. 9 in Travis County. She could be eligible for parole in four-and-a-half years.

On Aug. 19, 2015, around 2:30 a.m., Austin police say Orduna got onto the southbound lanes of Interstate 35 from Manor Road while going northbound and crashed head-on into a Toyota Scion being driven by Clayton Keller, 26. Keller died at the scene.

Orduna and her passenger, 23-year-old Megan Mendez of New Braunfels, were both taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Mendez died the following day.

The two had been out celebrating Orduna’s birthday.

Orduna’s blood alcohol concentration revealed she had the equivalent of a .17 percent BAC at the time of the crash. Due to the extent of Orduna’s injuries, she was booked and charged by proxy while at the hospital on Aug. 23. Records show Orduna was released on bond Aug. 28. It’s unclear whether she spent any time booked at the Travis County Jail.

Keller’s family say they’re disappointed to find out that prosecutors agreed to a plea deal and decided against a jury trial. The family tells KXAN they were hoping for a harsher sentence.

Clayton Keller and his wife, Sarah, and son Anthony. (Courtsey: Keller Family)
Clayton Keller and his wife, Sarah, and son Anthony. (Courtsey: Keller Family)

“It’s been two and a half years of putting our emotions on hold and trying to get closure,” explained Ali Gonsalves, Keller’s mother. “[We’re] not part of the decision, not part of the process, and feeling like we have no say in what’s going on.”

Keller’s family says they wanted the opportunity to have the case heard by a jury in trial with the hope that Orduna would be handed a harsher sentence.

“She [Orduna] intended to celebrate. She went out, she had fun, and she killed my best friend,” said Melissa Anderson. “We’re not okay with the plea deal. Our right is justice, and if the jurors wanted to look at us and say, ‘Ok, we’re only going to give her a few years,’ — fine. That’s 12 of our peers that are going to tell us. I understand that.”

Anderson says that decision should not be made by the district attorney.

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore released this statement:

“These cases are extremely difficult from all sides. We understand the terrible loss this is to the families of the victims. When making plea recommendations, we must take into consideration the criminal history, or lack thereof, of the defendant, the feelings of the victims, the underlying circumstances of the case, and what prior jurors have told us by their verdicts in similar cases. In this particular case, the defendant did not have criminal history and agreed to take a prison sentence of 9 years and, even though the defendant was eligible under the law for probation, that was never an option that this office considered.”

Intoxication manslaughter — a second degree felony — carries a range of 2-20 years in prison or 2-10 years probation. Orduna must serve half of her sentence, after which she can be evaluated to determine if she is a candidate for parole.

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