A Fremont woman was sentenced today to six years and eight months in state prison for killing a 22-year-old man in Fremont in 2014 by ramming her Volvo into him while he and two other men were changing a tire on a freeway shoulder. Melissa Ho, 25, was convicted last month of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and two counts of reckless driving for the crash on an Interstate Highway 880 shoulder at 12:13 p.m. on Aug. 16, 2014.
The crash claimed the life of William Sampson, injured his friend Damien Johnson and severely injured tow truck driver Michael Andrade. Prosecutors said Ho, a recovering heroin addict who had a prior misdemeanor conviction for driving under the influence, snorted cocaine, drank beer, smoked marijuana and took the sedative Xanax in the hours before the crash.
Sampson, who played football and basketball at Highlands High School in the Sacramento area, had been visiting friends in the Fremont area and had been scheduled to take a bus back to the Sacramento area on Aug. 16, 2014, but delayed his trip because he wanted to help a friend change a tire on his car, according to his mother Angel Parker.
Ho’s defense attorney Daniel Horowitz said in his closing argument that Ho “was not under the influence of any drugs at the time she was admitted to the hospital” shortly after the accident. Horowitz admitted that there’s evidence that Ho took drugs at some point before the crash but told jurors “that doesn’t mean that the drugs caused the accident.” Alameda County Superior Court Judge Tara Desautels said today that Ho “had clear and undeniable notice that she was driving in an impaired fashion” on the day of the fatal crash because she had rear-ended another car less than an hour before.
Desautels said Ho was eligible for probation because she didn’t have any prior felony convictions, but she said state prison is more appropriate because she’s a threat to the community and her prior performance on probation was poor.
Desautels also said Ho failed to take advantage of previous substance abuse programs she’d been enrolled in and said she thinks Ho has a better chance of getting treated for her substance abuse and mental health problems if she’s in prison.
The judge told Ho, “You are far too young for your life to be wasted and this is an opportunity for you to turn your life around.”
Sampson’s mother Angel Parker said Ho deserves the maximum punishment possible because she and her family “are serving a life sentence of pain” because of his death. Sampson’s grandmother Leslie Parker said Sampson “had a wonderful spirit, a charming personality, a beautiful smile and a kind heart.”
Parker said because of Sampson’s death, “My family is devastated and changed and all we have is memories and tears.”
Prosecutor Angela Backer said Andrade, the tow-truck driver, suffered a broken nose and a crushed leg that required multiple surgeries to reconstruct with rods, pins, screws and plates.
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