Ex-Teacher Sentenced in Drunk-Driving Deaths
A former Cardiff elementary schoolteacher was sentenced Monday to nearly 11 years in state prison for an April 14, 1984, drunk-driving accident that killed two Fallbrook teen-agers.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Jack R. Levitt imposed the maximum sentence on Robert Scott Carleton, 29, who was found guilty by a jury last month of two counts of vehicular manslaughter and drunken driving, and felony hit-and-run driving.
“I think what we had here was a total disregard for the welfare and safety of others,” Levitt said. “He knew . . . he was not in control of his vehicle, and I think that’s one of the most significant reasons the jury found there was gross negligence.”
During his trial, Carleton testified that he had consumed five to seven margaritas within the hour, after having an argument with his girlfriend at a Mission Valley restaurant. He said he then had four beers at two other restaurants before heading up Interstate 5 toward his Encinitas home.
Along the way he hit the back end of a car driven by Jill Fehrenbach, now 20, which was forced off the side of the freeway and hit a eucalyptus tree, killing passengers Paige Roark, 18, and Teresa Motta, 20. Fehrenbach suffered a minor concussion. Witnesses estimated that Carleton’s sports car reached speeds of 80 m.p.h. as he weaved across all four lanes of the freeway shortly before 1 a.m.
“I also believe deterrence has its place in this case. The impressionable people who hear about this case will be influenced by the decision,” Levitt said.
Accompanied by about 25 family friends and schoolmates of the victims, Michael and Cindy Roark both asked Levitt to impose the maximum sentence of 10 years and eight months.
“My child is dead. I’ve received a life sentence without my Paige,” Mrs. Roark said. “She’s paid the highest price of her life for Mr. Carleton’s drunk driving. What price will he pay?”
David Thompson, Carleton’s attorney, asked the judge to consider imposing minimal jail time followed by a lengthy probationary period.
“There’s been an orchestrated effort to single out one man and make one man pay for the evils of alcohol in our society,” Thompson charged. “I’m asking the court not to do that.
“He (Carleton) couldn’t go down the street (before the accident) without being recognized either by his pupils or peers. Now he’s had to look those people in the eye and know that, after having devoted his life to kids, in two hours he took the lives of two other children. He’s paid for that. Enough is enough.”
Thompson also told Levitt that the defendant has filed for bankruptcy after depleting his savings and state teacher’s pension to pay attorney’s fees and make restitution payments of about $219,000 to the families of those involved.
But Levitt denied the request for probation, noting that just five months before the accident Carleton had completed a probation period for a 1981 reckless driving conviction, a charge that had been reduced from drunk driving.