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Ran Red Light; Mother and 4 Children Died : Drunk Driver Who Killed 5 Gets 77 Years to Life

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Associated Press

A drunk driver convicted of murder in the June, 1985, traffic deaths of a woman and her four children has been sentenced to 77 years to life in state prison.

Dennis Jewell, 35, was the first drunk driver to be convicted of murder in San Bernardino County, reflecting a growing crackdown on drunk drivers nationwide. He was sentenced Wednesday by Superior Court Judge Duke D. Rouse and will be eligible for parole in 38 1/2 years when he is 73, Deputy Dist. Atty. Gary S. Roth said Thursday.

Jewell was admittedly “blind drunk” when he ran a red light and killed Jeanette Willis, 40, of Apple Valley and her four children, ranging in age from 7 months to 11 years, defense attorney S. Donald Ames said. Ames called Jewell a chronic alcoholic with alcohol-related offenses dating back to 1975.

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“The message is: If anybody drinks and drives (and causes a death), the district attorney could conceivably charge them with murder,” Ames said.

Jewell was convicted last month on five counts of second-degree murder, each count of which is punishable by 15 years to life in prison. Rouse decided Jewell should serve his five sentences consecutively rather than concurrently. Two additional years were tacked on because Jewell was driving a stolen truck, Roth said.

Jewell, who did not ask for a lesser sentence, said he felt remorse over the deaths. He added that he plans to counsel other inmates on the perils of drunk driving.

Lab tests showed Jewell had a blood-alcohol level of about 0.34%, more than triple the legal limit.

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