What started out as a celebratory night out for a Portuguese immigrant couple from Lemoore ended in tragedy when a drunk driver struck the back of the vehicle they were riding in, killing the husband. Nearly six months later, judgment was passed on the Clovis woman convicted in the senseless death.
“They had immigrated to America, the land of opportunity,” said Madera County District Attorney David A. Linn. “But it’s the end of the American dream for them, I’m afraid.”
At the Madera County Superior Courthouse, Candice Ooley, 23, was sentenced on Monday to 11 years in a state prison by Madera County Judge Ernest J. LiCalsi.
In court, Ooley’s attorney, Daniel K. Martin, pleaded for a lighter sentence for his client, citing her infant daughter as cause for leniency in the matter.
“We have an infant who won’t know the smell of her mother,” Martin said. “She’ll have to visit her mother through a glass screen.”
Martin also stated that Ooley cried every time time he saw her, and that she was sorry for what she had done.
Judge LiCalsi, however, said he was skeptical over the level of Ooley’s remorse, citing a letter she had written on the incident which, according him, indicated more sorrow for her own predicament, than for the victims of the accident. The judge also noted Ooley’s decision to drive while drunk, and to drink during her pregnancy.
“Her daughter may be better off with her mother in prison,” LiCalsi said to the defense.
Ooley was arrested after she reportedly drove her 2014 Chevrolet Cruze into the back of a 2006 Hummer H3 on State Route 41 between Coarsegold and Oakhurst, causing driver Mauricio Lourenco, 40, to lose control of the Hummer, at which point he went off the road and crashed. Federico Nunez Silva, 47, was killed in the accident. The other three people in the vehicle, including Silva’s wife, Luisa Pamplona, 48, were injured.
Ooley was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.32, four times the legal limit at the accident. She was between six and eight months pregnant at the time.
Ooley gave birth to a girl in July at Madera Community Hospital while in custody. She was given several days to bond with her daughter before she was sent back to Madera County Jail. The baby, Martin said, is currently living with Ooley’s mother.
According to Linn, Ooley had been in a fight with her boyfriend when she decided to drink and drive. This was confirmed by Martin, who claimed that a glass had been thrown at her. He also confirmed that alcohol containers had been found in her car.
Ooley was reportedly driving on a suspended license after she had been arrested for a previous DUI at Millerton Lake last June. She was due to appear in Bass Lake shortly before the wreck that ended Silva’s life, but failed to show up.
According to Martin, the failure to appear was the result of her summons having been sent to the wrong address.
Silva and Pamplona, who came to the United States from the Azores, were out celebrating their anniversary on the night of May 20, when the accident took place.
At Ooley’s sentencing, Pamplona was given the opportunity to testify before Judge LiCalsi.
“The only place I can see him is in the cemetery. His face was all destroyed,” Pamplona said of her husband between sobs. “She destroyed her life and mine.”
Pamplona and Ooley both wept throughout the testimony. Pamplona could not go back to her home country, she said, because her husband was buried here.
After the sentencing was over, Pamplona nearly collapsed while leaving the courtroom, and had to be supported by her family.
“There are no winners in cases like this,” Linn said.