Guilty verdict in high-speed-chase murder case

Leylani Simmons convicted of all charges in friend's death after evading police in 2011

An East Palo Alto woman who killed her friend after she evaded police has been convicted of all charges, including second-degree murder, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Tuesday.

The jury took just 3.5 hours to find Leylani Simmons, 28, guilty of second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter and felony evading police for the June 17, 2011, death of her friend, Lupe Veamatahau, 22. Simmons faces 16 years to life in prison, Wagstaffe said.

"There is not much sentencing leeway, he said.

The accident occurred after East Palo Alto officers saw a vehicle driving recklessly at Pulgas Avenue and Camellia Drive at 10:30 p.m. that night and pursued the car.

Simmons allegedly drove at speeds between 60 and 80 miles per hour during a 1.5-mile chase and ran at least six stop signs, twice drove on the wrong side of the road and ultimately lost control of her car, according to the district attorney's office. Her vehicle overturned as she attempted to turn south from Pulgas Avenue onto East Bayshore Road, pinning Veamatahau between the car and the asphalt. Veamatahau died at the scene.

Simmons was ejected from the vehicle and hospitalized with serious, non-life-threatening injuries. She was fatal arrested Monday, June 20, and eventually pleaded not guilty in May 2012.

Last week, Superior Court Judge Clifford Cretan dismissed two lesser charges -- related to driving under the influence causing great bodily injury -- at the prosecution's request, because they are included offenses within the murder charge. Simmons' defense did not present any witnesses or experts during her trial and she did not testify. The defense presented only a brief argument, Wagstaffe said. He called the verdict "a good outcome."

Simmons will return to court on Aug. 6 for sentencing. She has been held in county jail without bail since her release from the hospital.

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Like this comment
Posted by domanique
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Lay I'm very shocked and sad to hear this. I wish I could visit you right now. I know all you can do is cry and I know it was an accident despite what the news reports say. You made a mistake but it was a mistake that could have been the other way around. You life makes me promise to live mine. Forever yourself best friend in the whole world Domanique. I love you for living me I could have never made it without you

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