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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Driver Who Killed 3 Jailed in New Case

Courts: Diane Mannes pleads not guilty to alcohol-related charges. Request for $1-million bail is denied. She faces maximum of 18 months if convicted.

November 29, 2000|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Convicted drunk driver Diane Mannes--who slammed into a group of youths on the Conejo Grade 11 years ago, killing three--was taken into custody Tuesday on two alcohol-related offenses as prosecutors sought $1-million bail in hopes of keeping her off the streets.

"We are talking about public safety," argued Deputy Dist. Atty. Barbara Kim during an arraignment in traffic court.

Court Commissioner Ruben De Le Torre agreed that Mannes poses a safety risk. But he denied the prosecution request and set bail at $20,000.

Through her attorney, the 46-year-old Mannes pleaded not guilty to charges of drunk driving, public intoxication and failure to appear in court. A trial date was set for Dec. 19.

Mannes did not show up for a court hearing Monday on the public-intoxication charge, and a warrant was issued for her arrest. On Tuesday, she appeared for arraignment on the drunk-driving charge and was taken into custody by deputies.

No reason was given for her failure to appear the day before.

Watching from a seat in the front row of the courtroom was Camarillo resident Linda Oxenreider, whose 19-year-old son, Joshua, was one of the youths killed by Mannes in 1989.

"It's really hard to look at the person who murdered your child, and terrifying to think she is out drunk driving again," Oxenreider said after the hearing. "She is a lethal person. She absolutely needs to be taken off the streets."

Mannes, a Ventura resident, was arrested Aug. 11 on suspicion of drunk driving after a sheriff's deputy noticed her vehicle weaving on Ponderosa Drive in Camarillo. Authorities said Mannes had a .28% blood-alcohol level--more than three times the legal limit for driving.

She was taken into custody and later released on $10,000 bail.

Two months later, Mannes was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication after patrons at a Ventura bar called police when Mannes slid off a bar stool and collapsed on the floor.

She was taken to Ventura County Medical Center, where she was admitted for intoxication and cited for public drunkenness, police said.

Mannes faces up to 18 months in jail if convicted on the two alcohol-related offenses and the failure-to-appear charge.

Deputy Public Defender Dino Inumerable declined to comment on the case, which he received for the first time Tuesday.

Asked why Mannes had failed to show up for court Monday, Inumerable said he didn't know, but added: "If I did, I couldn't comment on that. It's one of the charges."

Mannes' two cases have been filed as misdemeanors, despite her prior convictions for drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter.

Prosecutors say they are compelled to treat the latest drunk-driving arrest as if it were a first-time offense because state law puts a 10-year limit on the amount of time a felony can be used as a prior offense.

"We really feel our hands are tied by the law right now," prosecutor Kim said after the hearing. "We'd like to see that changed."

Oxenreider, who is state chairwoman of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is determined to do just that. She said she is working with associates in Sacramento to develop legislation to overturn the provision.

"I am going to see that that law is changed," she said.

Mannes was charged with felony drunk driving and second-degree murder after plowing into five youths as they walked along the Conejo Grade in search of help for a flat tire in March 1989.

Jacob Boyd, 14, Joshua Oxenreider and Darin Mullins, 20, were killed when Mannes' Bronco sideswiped their car and flipped over, striking the teens. Jeremy Boyd, 19, and Jeff Botens, 16, were seriously injured.

A jury convicted Mannes of drunk driving, but deadlocked on the murder count, and a judge later dismissed the murder case. Prosecutors sought to retry Mannes as state and federal courts debated whether a second trial would violate her rights against double jeopardy.

Eventually, Mannes pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of vehicular manslaughter. She served two years on the drunk-driving conviction and was sentenced to probation on the manslaughter plea.

She violated probation in 1994, admitting in court that she drank alcohol and failed to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. She was sentenced to 44 months in prison but was released two years later.

For Oxenreider, seeing Mannes in court again dredged up painful memories. But it also made her more determined to fight for tougher penalties for people convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.

"I have to do this," she said. "I have to make sure no other mom or dad has to bury a son or daughter because of a drunk driver."

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