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Santa Maria Man Pleads No Contest to Vehicular Manslaughter

A 19-year-old Santa Maria man on Thursday pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter and other charges related to the death of an 18-year-old former star athlete last June.

Christian Iban Rodriguez Carbajal entered the plea in a Santa Maria courtroom, changing an earlier not guilty plea to charges of vehicular manslaughter, DUI causing injury and reckless driving, according to Deputy District Attorney Anne Nudson.

Carbajal faces up to 14 years in state prison when he is sentenced March 7, she said.

Prosecutors allege that Carbajal was racing at speeds up to 80 mph when he caused a June 18, 2013, five-vehicle accident at South Broadway and McCoy Lane, which injured two people and killed Jade Marie Dodson, who had recently graduated from Santa Maria High School and was a star member of the school’s tennis team.

Carbajal was allegedly driving under the influence when his Chevrolet pickup truck failed to stop for a red light while southbound on Broadway at McCoy Avenue, according to authorities.

Dodson, a passenger in a Toyota Camry, succumbed to major injuries and died at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The driver of the Camry, 19-year-old Robert Caroag, suffered traumatic brain injuries, and another passenger, 7-year-old Isabel Dodson, sustained facial lacerations, according to Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley.

Carbajal, whose blood tested positive for marijuana, sustained minor injuries and was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail, with bail set at $1 million.

He remained in custody Thursday, with bail at $500,000, Nudson said.

Dudley said the DA's Office did not offer Carbajal a plea, and will seek the maximum sentence, which is expected to be handed down by Superior Court Judge Rick Brown at 9 a.m. March 7 in Department 6.

Carbajal's defense attorney, Billy Redell, called the incident a "tragic event," and said Carbajal has expressed "extreme remorse." Carbajal will publicly offer an apology at the sentencing hearing, he added.

Redell said he hopes the judge will show some compassion due to Carbajal's lack of a criminal history and level of remorse.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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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