Driver in Fatal Crash Given Maximum Term : Woman Used Alcohol, Cocaine Before Collision in Which 3 Were Killed, Faces 12-Year Sentence

Times Staff Writer

A Sunset Beach woman who admitted she had been drinking and using cocaine the night her car swerved on Pacific Coast Highway and killed three women was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in prison--the maximum possible.

Superior Court Judge Phillip E. Cox said after the sentencing that the probation report on Kym Murphy, 26, “shows that she just keeps going from bad to worse.”

In April, a jury found Murphy guilty of three counts of vehicular manslaughter in the Sept. 10, 1984, collision in Seal Beach. Three young Mission Viejo women in a sports car died in the crash.

During her trial, it was made public outside the presence of jurors that on the night of the collision Murphy had a restricted driver’s license because of a drunk-driving conviction in Ventura County just three months before.


Earlier Arrests Revealed

It wasn’t until after the trial that Cox learned from the probation report that her police record showed: She was convicted of drunk driving in 1978; she entered a drug rehabilitation program after she was arrested in 1981 for carrying a concealed weapon and was found riding in a truck with 44 pounds of marijuana in its bed; she was arrested in 1981 on suspicion of reckless driving when she allegedly struck five parked cars.

Murphy, who has been free on her own recognizance, was in a wheelchair throughout her trial because of injuries in the 1984 collision. Tuesday, she came to court on crutches, and with her jaw wired shut, which prevented her from speaking on her own behalf. She had told probation officials she expected the maximum sentence.

Cox granted Murphy a delay until July 22 to be taken into custody to give doctors time to remove the jaw wires. Part of her hipbone was recently used to reconstruct her jaw, records show.


Killed in the collision were Diane Mae Druckrey, 21, Deborah Lee Slemmons, 20, and Dawn Joy Utterback, 18. The three were close friends, all graduates of Capistrano Valley High School. They had been returning home from a restaurant.

Slemmons’ mother, Barbara Slemmons, in an emotional statement to the court Tuesday about her daughter, asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence. Gordon Phillips, a Santa Ana attorney, spoke for the Druckrey family. The parents of all three victims had attended most or all of Murphy’s trial and were at the sentencing.

Returning From Work

Murphy testified at her trial that she had been returning from a modeling assignment, where she had used some alcohol and cocaine with the photographer.


Tests showed Murphy had a .11 blood-alcohol content, just above the .10 the law recognizes as too drunk to drive. Tests also showed she had cocaine in her system. Her driver’s license at the time restricted her to commuting to work.

Murphy also testified at her trial that she had been blinded by lights from the oncoming car and did not know what happened. But one witness testified she had been speeding and had veered into oncoming traffic as the road curved.

Cox said after the sentencing that he searched the record for mitigating factors which would have led him to give Murphy than the maximum sentence.

“There just weren’t any,” Cox said.