Murder trial involving former OCC student starts this afternoon

The trial of a former Orange Coast College student accused of killing a woman last year in a drunk-driving crash in Costa Mesa is set to begin this afternoon, officials with the Orange County district attorney's office said.

Gustavo Vega, 23, is charged with murder for allegedly driving drunk Feb. 14, 2010, running a red light at Sunflower Avenue near South Coast Plaza and plowing into a Toyota Corolla.

Cara Lee, 20, an aspiring model, leader at a summer youth camp in Newport Beach and cancer survivor, died in the crash. Her 21-year-old friend, who was driving the Corolla, suffered minor injuries.

Prosecutors charged Vega with murder because he has a previous DUI conviction on his record, where he was told about the potentially fatal consequences of drinking and driving. Prosecutors claim that Vega had a blood alcohol level of .17, more than twice the legal limit, and had cocaine in his pocket when arrested.

Police said Vega originally ran from the crash.

Opening statements will likely begin in Courtroom C-42 at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana, officials said.

— Joseph Serna

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