Local DUI suspect pleads guilty to manslaughter
Candice Ooley, a Clovis woman accused of killing a Lemoore man in Madera County while driving drunk, is awaiting sentencing after changing her plea to guilty.
Ooley, under the counsel of her attorney, Daniel Martin, entered a plea of guilty to all charges Friday before Judge Ernest J. LiCalsi in Department 23 of Madera County Superior Court. These included a charge of vehicular malice that the prosecutor, Benjamin Levy, cited as being “without malice, but with gross negligence.”
During the plea, LiCalsi read Ooley her rights and asked her if she understood the charges against her. Sobbing, Ooley stated she both understood and agreed.
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 the Hummer to go off the road and crash. Frederico Nunez Silva, 47, of Lemoore, and three others were killed in the accident, which occurred on the night of May 20.
At the site of the accident, a California Highway Patrol officer reportedly found that Ooley, who was about six months pregnant, had a blood alcohol level of 0.32, four times the legal limit.
Ooley’s bail was originally $125,000. This sum was raised to $250,000 at the recommendation of Madera County District Attorney David A. Linn. Ooley’s defense tried to lower the bail in a June 1 hearing, to which Judge LiCalsi responded by increasing the bail again — this time to $300,000.
Still in custody, Ooley gave birth to a girl in July at Madera Community Hospital. She was given several days to bond with her newborn before being returned to Madera County Jail. Martin has said the baby is healthy, and is living with Ooley’s mother.
“The baby is doing good,” Martin said. “Happy, healthy, so far as we know.”
According to Linn, Ooley had been in an argument with her boyfriend, when she decided to drink and drive. Martin confirmed that a fight had occurred May 20, and claimed 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, because she had been arrested for a previous DUI at Millerton Lake last June. Ooley was due to appear in court in Bass Lake shortly before the wreck that ended Silva’s life, but failed to show up. According to Martin, this is because her summons was sent to the wrong address.
Ooley is slated to return to superior court on December 5 for sentencing.
“This matter could have continued on for a long period of time, which does no one any good,” Linn said. “In cases like this there is really more than one victim. The individual who had died as a result of Ms. Ooley’s drunken driving was the first victim, and his family was the second victim. Ms. Ooley herself and her family have also become victims as a result of her careless act … (When people drive) under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or when they engage in distracted driving, they take a chance of creating numerous victims.”
Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Levy prosecuted the case against Ooley. The California Highway Patrol investigated the case.
John Rieping of The Madera Tribune contributed to this story.