An East Palo Alto woman accused of killing another woman in a drunken driving crash last year has pleaded not guilty to second degree murder, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Wednesday, May 16.
Leylani Simmons, 26, also pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol resulting in great bodily injury or death, and driving on a suspended license on the night of the crash, which occurred on June 17, 2011, according to the district attorney's office.
East Palo Alto patrol officers allegedly spotted Simmons driving recklessly on Pulgas Avenue at about 10:30 p.m., Wagstaffe said. East Palo Alto woman Lorina Veamatahau, 22, was a passenger in the car. Police tried to initiate a traffic stop, but Simmons refused to pull over, according to the district attorney's office.
A video camera on the console of the police patrol car recorded the subsequent pursuit, which allegedly shows Simmons driving through at least six stop signs, driving on the wrong side of the road and reaching speeds of up to 80 mph on surface streets, Wagstaffe said.
The chase continued for about one and a half miles, until Simmons lost control of her car and crashed at an intersection with East Bayshore Road. Simmons and Veamatahau were both ejected in the crash. Veamatahau was pinned beneath the vehicle and died from her injuries at the scene.
Simmons was taken to Stanford University Hospital, where she was arrested three days later. Simmons, who had an active arrest warrant in Santa Clara County for reckless driving, remains in custody without bail at San Mateo County jail. She is scheduled to be back in court for a pretrial conference on July 31.