Marcy DeJesus, who had devoted years of her life to a campaign against drunk driving, sobbed and clenched her fist Monday as Darshan Grewal was found guilty of murder for being drunk when his Cadillac smashed into her son’s pickup truck, killing him.
The death of her son, she revealed, drove DeJesus out of the crusade against drivers like Grewal. Unable to bear the pain of dealing with the subject on a daily basis, she has resigned as the Los Angeles administrator of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, she said.
Because he had two previous drunk-driving convictions and was driving on a suspended license, Grewal, 42, a San Jose lab technician, was found guilty in Lancaster Superior Court of second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter and felony drunk driving.
Grewal, who will be sentenced Dec. 31, faces up to 15 years in prison.
Police said Grewal had a blood-alcohol level of 0.22%, nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08%, three hours after the April 7 accident that killed DeJesus’ 19-year-old son.
Because of his record, getting behind the wheel that drunk showed malice and conscious disregard for human life, justifying a murder verdict, the prosecution argued.
Friends from MADD surrounded DeJesus and comforted her as she waited for the verdicts. She sighed loudly and broke into tears as the first was read: guilty of second-degree murder. She clenched her fist as the second was read: guilty of vehicular manslaughter.
And she leaned forward sobbing when she heard the third and fourth verdicts, felony drunk driving causing death or injury, and driving under the influence.
Across the courtroom, Grewal’s family sat impassively as each verdict was announced.
Although it is common for such an experience to turn other mothers into activists against drunk driving, it had the opposite effect on DeJesus, who joined MADD because she strongly supported its work, not because someone she knew had been killed by a drunk driver. She resigned her position shortly after the accident, she said Monday.
“This basically has taken me beyond the realm of being able to do the work I was doing,” she said. “I had given 10 years of myself to this cause, and I couldn’t do it anymore. It was just too much for me.”
While MADD members provided her with a support network, her background was no help, she said.
“I don’t think anything prepares you for this,” she said. “It’s very different when it’s yourself.”
Her son, Adam R. DeJesus, and his girlfriend, Shanya Roberson, 19, were headed to Lake Havasu in Arizona on a spring-break holiday, following California 18 through the Antelope Valley. As they neared the San Bernardino County line, Grewal apparently tried to pass a large truck on the two-lane road, crossed the center line and struck DeJesus’ oncoming Toyota pickup head on.
DeJesus was killed and Roberson sustained major injuries.
His death was one of a series of devastating blows for Marcy DeJesus. Several years ago, her husband, Luchi, died of a brain tumor. Last year, she suffered a stroke and still uses a cane to walk. At the time, her son had come home from UC Santa Barbara to be with her.
Although she called it “probably the worst experience of my life,” DeJesus attended every day of the trial, saying she wanted to make sure that her son was represented in the courtroom.
“Everyone else is represented in the courtroom, but the victim is not,” she said. “Family members are there to represent the victims.”
During the long ride Monday from Santa Monica, where she now lives, to hear the verdict, “I had this nightmare of seeing him walk out of the courtroom free,” she said. “But I don’t have to worry about this now.”
As the jurors filed out of the courtroom, she smiled at each of them.
“I just prayed and prayed that they wouldn’t be stupid and that they would have the courage to make this decision, and they did. I’m very grateful,” she said. “It’s one more of them off the streets.”
Now, she says, she can begin the healing process, but she could not contain her anger.
“I hate his guts,” she said. “Do you want the truth? I really do.”