Ventura Man Pleads Guilty in Fatal Crash

From a Times Staff Writer

A 23-year-old Ventura man pleaded guilty Wednesday to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, stemming from a Thanksgiving Day accident that left three of his friends dead.

Tomas Edmundo Mercer faces a maximum of six years in state prison when sentenced Jan. 5 by Superior Court Judge Roland Purnell.

"As the holiday season comes upon us, this case is a tragic reminder of the dangerous consequences of drinking alcohol and driving ...," said Ventura County Dist. Atty. Greg Totten.

On Nov. 27, 2003, a truck driven by Mercer rolled over shortly before 2 a.m. on narrow Foothill Road near Santa Paula. Killed were Timothy R. Coultas, 23, of Santa Paula; his cousin, Michael Frick, 23, of Ventura; and Rebecca Singer-Beilin, 22, of Ventura.

Mercer was critically injured, and two other passengers had minor cuts and scrapes. The passengers told police they were coming from a bar, officials said.

Manslaughter charges were filed in May after tests found that Mercer had a blood-alcohol level between 0.08 and 0.09 at the time of the accident. California law prohibits driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or above.

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