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DA Charges Driver In Triple-Fatal Santa Barbara Crash with Drug Crimes

A woman involved in an April car crash that left three young people dead and one injured is facing drug charges but not manslaughter, according to a statement issued by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office Thursday.

Kimberly Ann Kreis, 52, of Santa Barbara, was arrested April 21 on DUI charges after her vehicle slammed into the left side of a car that had crashed into the center divider and overturned on Highway 101 in Santa Barbara. 

Three people were killed in the early morning crash — Danielle Nicole Murillo and Jessica Lee Leffew, both 17 and from Torrance, and Brian Adonay Lopez, 20, of Los Angeles, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Erick Hoel August, 20, of Los Angeles, was the driver of the overturned vehicle that was struck by Kreis and was critically injured in the crash.

Kreis, who suffered minor injuries, was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail and later released on $100,000 bail.

She was initially charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated but an investigation by the California Highway Patrol resulted in different charges. 

Kreis, who has yet to be arraigned, is now being charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, misdemeanor driving while under the influence, misdemeanor possession of an instrument for the injection or smoking of a controlled substance, and misdemeanor driving while under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug.

Thursday's statement said that August fell asleep at the wheel, causing the vehicle to go off the right shoulder, hit the guard rail, slide along the top of the guard rail and eventually land upside down in the southbound lanes of Highway 101 near the Castillo Street exit. 

Within seconds of the August vehicle ending up on its roof, Kreis collided into the vehicle, according to authorities.

August survived the impact but Murillo, Leffew and Lopez were all pronounced dead at the scene.  

Senior Deputy District Attorney Arnie Tolks told Noozhawk Thursday that August was not intoxicated at the time of the crash.

Tolks said the CHP had conducted an extensive crash investigation and come up with the charges as a result.

"I think the investigation was such that although she may have caused the death of those people, we didn't think she was criminally liable," Tolks said.

"It was CHP's decision, and the bottom line is that they didn't feel that even a sober person could have avoided the collision."

Kreis could face local custody time and fines if convicted. 

She will be arraigned in Santa Barbara Superior Court on Oct. 2.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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