Woman Sentenced to at Least 51 Years in Prison for Drunk Driving Crash That Killed 3 Teens

Bani Duarte, 29, was sentenced on Thursday to 51 years to life in prison for a 2018 crash that killed three teens and badly injured another. This was the maximum sentence.

“To sum this up in one line, this is a tragedy of epic proportions,” Orange County Superior Court Judge Gary Paer said, according to The Las Vegas Review-Journal. “The victims’ families are suffering. The defendant’s family is suffering. There are no words to adequately summarize this horrific event.”

Duarte was found guilty last year in an Orange County, California court on three counts second-degree murder, and a count of driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury.

Prosecutors said that on March 29, 2018, a drunk Duarte was speeding down the Pacific Coast Highway. She crashed into the victims’ Toyota Corolla at 80 miles per hour. Brooke Hawley, 17, Dylan Mack, 18, and Albert “A.J.” Rossi Jr., 17, were killed. Survivor Alexis Vargas sustained burns and a concussion.

“Bani Duarte murdered three people — kids,” prosecutor Daniel Feldman said at trial. “Because of her choices, because of what she knew, what she understood, what she chose to do anyway,” he said. “Another young man, Alexis, has got a permanent scar. He’ll carry it with him forever because she decided she didn’t want to take an Uber after a night of drinking.”

Authorities said that the defendant had at least 9 drinks.

“I understand you hate me, wish I was dead,” the defendant said in a statement addressed to the victims’ relatives. “You want me to suffer. I just want to say that I’m truly sorry and maybe one day you will forgive me. What I’m saying is coming from my heart.”

[Screengrab via ABC 10]

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