LANCASTER — The drunk driver who killed 18-year-old Kathryn Marie Ward three weeks before she was to be salutatorian at Quartz Hill High School's commencement has pleaded no contest to a charge of vehicular manslaughter.
Scott Glen Davis, 22, of Antelope Acres, faces up to 10 years in prison when he appears for sentencing Aug. 2 before Lancaster Superior Court Judge Kenneth Freeman.
Davis entered his plea Tuesday, as family and friends of both the victim and the defendant gathered in Antelope Municipal Court for a preliminary hearing. Davis pleaded no contest, equivalent to a guilty plea, to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and to a misdemeanor charge of driving on a suspended license.
Prosecutors did not offer a plea bargain in the case. Davis' attorney, Deputy Public Defender Mitchell Bruckner, said his client hoped that by admitting guilt and showing remorse early in the legal process, he would be given a lenient sentence.
In addition, Bruckner said, Davis "really didn't have the stomach to go through with the legal proceedings. As one can imagine, he feels awful for the consequences of his misdeeds. He knows he did wrong. He just didn't wish to draw this out."
Davis, who had a prior misdemeanor drunk driving conviction in Kern County and was driving on a suspended license, was arrested May 29 after his pickup truck struck head-on a car driven by Ward, also of Antelope Acres. The collision occurred near 90th Street West and Avenue D.
Ward died a day after the crash, in which Davis received minor injuries.
The collision attracted wide attention because Ward, a popular student at Quartz Hill High, was about to graduate near the top of her class and had plans to go on to college and become a physician. Davis' defense attorney said he fears that could affect the sentencing.
"I'm very concerned, and Mr. Davis and his family are concerned, that because of the special quality of the victim in this case, that could result in a more harsh sentence than if the collision were with someone more normal," Bruckner said. "That wouldn't be fair."
He said Davis' family and friends will attend the sentencing hearing and urge the judge to hand down a lenient sentence.
Sharon Ward, the victim's mother, said Wednesday that her daughter's family and friends will also be in court that day, asking for the maximum sentence. She pointed out that with good behavior, Davis could be released after serving only half of a maximum 10-year sentence.
"I'd like for him to spend longer in jail than what [Kathryn] would have taken to go through college," the victim's mother said. "That's the only reason he pleaded guilty--the evidence was overwhelming, and he hopes the court will show mercy."
Ward said Davis should receive the maximum sentence "not just for punishment but to show other people there needs to be a penalty for people who willfully drive drunk and take other people's lives."