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Lompoc Woman Pleads Guilty to Causing Fatal 2013 Crash in Santa Ynez

Under plea agreement, Rebecca Sandoval admitted using nitrous oxide before collision that killed Linda Wall

Rebecca Cristal Sandoval, 39, accepted a plea deal Wednesday that will send her to prison for more than 13 years for her role in a 2013 crash that fatally injured a retired Santa Ynez teacher.
Rebecca Cristal Sandoval, 39, accepted a plea deal Wednesday that will send her to prison for more than 13 years for her role in a 2013 crash that fatally injured a retired Santa Ynez teacher. (KCOY News photo)

A Lompoc woman faces more than 13 years in state prison after she admitted driving under the influence of nitrous oxide two years ago and causing a Santa Ynez accident that killed a retired teacher.

Prior to Wednesday's plea agreement, the trial of Rebecca Cristal Sandoval, 39, had been set to start Jan. 11 in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria.

But Sandoval agreed to plead guilty to three counts plus a special allegation.

The charges included felony gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and felony driving while under the influence of a drug causing injury to another, stemming from the Dec. 19, 2013 crash, along with a special allegation of causing great bodily injury.

Additionally, she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of driving while under the influence of a drug due to a July 11, 2013, incident. 

As part of the plea deal, Deputy District Attorney Mai Trieu filed a second amended complaint against Sandoval, who originally had faced a murder charge. 

Sandoval was arrested after a crash on Dec. 19, 2013, on Highway 246 near the entrance to the Chumash Casino Resort.

Retired Santa Ynez Valley High School teacher Linda Wall, 68, of Buellton was critically injured and later died at a hospital after the collision, which also injured two people in a third vehicle.

Wall, driving a Toyota Highlander, was slowing to stop behind another vehicle, driven by Simona Mikusova, waiting for a red light on Highway 246, east of Cuesta Street.

Sandoval's vehicle slammed into Wall's, which then hit Mikusova's vehicle. Wall suffered fatal injuries while Mikusova and her passenger also were injured.

"This case is yet another heart-breaking reminder that driving under the influence of any intoxicant, including legal drugs and prescription medications, can have fatal consequences and destroy many lives," District Attorney Joyce Dudley said. "Mrs. Wall's death has continued to have a devastating effect on her adoring family, friends, and our community."  

In the July 2013 incident, authorities said, Sandoval was driving under the influence of of nitrous oxide and Lorazepam when she crashed into a pair of parked vehicles.

As an emotional Sandoval accepted the plea deal, her family and the victim's children sat in the courtroom.

"We would like to thank and express our appreciation to the Santa Ynez Valley community for their overwhelming support to our family for the last two years along with the District Attorney's Office for their time, care, and dedication to this case," the Wall family said in a written statement.

"Rebecca Sandoval made a horrible, selfish choice to get high on nitrous oxide while driving, and our family and community will forever suffer from it. Our family hopes the minimal sentence she is getting for the untimely death of our beloved Linda Wall will help her become a more responsible citizen upon her release."

Sandoval, who was represented by Deputy Public Defender Patty Dark, is expected to be sentenced to 13 years and 8 months in state prison.

Judge Gustavo Lavayen scheduled Sandoval's sentencing for Jan. 20, when prosecutors are expected to drop the murder charge.

Last year, attorneys for the Wall family filed a product liability and wrongful death lawsuit against Toyota, claiming a defect in the design caused Wall's seat back to break and collapse backward into a fully reclined position.

Sandoval also was named in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Wall's husband and three adult children.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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.

Rebecca Cristal Sandoval, 39, accepted a plea deal Wednesday that will send her to prison for more than 13 years for her role in this 2013 accident that fatally injured a retired Santa Ynez teacher. Click to view larger
Rebecca Cristal Sandoval, 39, accepted a plea deal Wednesday that will send her to prison for more than 13 years for her role in this 2013 accident that fatally injured a retired Santa Ynez teacher. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

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