With the filing of a murder count today against the accused drunken driver blamed for the hit-and-run death of Osmara Meza, the Santa Ana 5-year-old becomes Orange County's fifth homicide victim of 2012.
The girl was holding hands with her 6-year-old sister Gresia Meza and their mother Eloisa Madrigal as they legally walked through a crosswalk on a green light at 17th and Spurgeon streets in Santa Ana Saturday morning when a car ran through a red light, knocking the three into the intersection.
Osmara was later pronounced dead at the scene. Gresia and Madrigal were rushed to a Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, where they were treated for traumatic brain injuries. The 45-year-old mother remains there in "extremely critical" condition, while Gresia is reported to be recovering and is expected to survive.
Before the three were hit on their way from their apartment to a restaurant for breakfast, the same silver 2002 Lexus IS had been seen being driven erratically on 17th Street, at one point going out of control, hitting a center median and running another red before reaching 17th and Spurgeon. After striking the females at about 60 mph, knocking or dragging them 70 feet in the process, the driver darted off. But a motorist who witnessed what happened followed her for a few blocks and cornered her vehicle at 17th and Main Street until police arrived.
The driver of the death ride, later identified as Jessicah Louise Cowan, 33, of Lake Hughes, was later arrested on suspicion of felony hit-and-run, felony driving under the influence and manslaughter. Santa Ana Police allege she failed a field sobriety test, was under the influence of alcohol and had marijuana on her.
Cowan was originally held in lieu of $250,000 bail, but the Orange County District Attorney's office says in a statement that the judge will be asked at her arraignment in Santa Ana today that her bail be set at $1 million, which is standard for a murder count.
"Murder may be charged in cases of implied malice, where the defendant intentionally commits an act that is dangerous to human life, knowing it is dangerous to human life, and acts with conscious disregard for human life," reads the prosecution statement.
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The accused is now charged with one felony count each of murder, driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury, driving with a blood alcohol level over .08 percent causing bodily injury, hit and run causing injury, an infraction for possession of marijuana while driving, and sentencing enhancements and allegations for having a blood alcohol level over .20 percent and causing bodily injury.
A conviction count send Cowan to state prison for 15 years to life.
Meanwhile, the Santa Ana Police Foundation has set up a donation fund for Meza's family, which is dealing not only with medical bills but burial expenses. Give online at sapdf.org/tragedy or send a check payable to Santa Ana Police Foundation, 2321 E. 4th St., Suite C-175, Santa Ana, CA 92705.